As a parent, you want to make sure your kids are safe and informed when it comes to social media. I know I was so hesitant (and still am with some platforms) to let my children start using social media and chat functions in games. However, it is a part of their social development in our modern world. Everyone communicates using technology. But with all the risks out there, what do you need to tell them?
Here are 10 key things every kid needs to know about social media, the risks of online predators and more!
1. What happens on the web, stays on the web… FOREVER!
We like to follow the WWGS (what would grandma say) rule: If grandma wouldn’t approve it probably should stay off your social media! It’s important to talk to our kids and let them know that once something is put on the internet it’s impossible to delete all traces! Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever!
2. Nothing is truly free on the internet!
Whether it's a free-to-play game or a free download, companies hope you or your child will offer up personal information to them in exchange for freebies. The company then resells your information or gets you to purchase in-game items. You might be surprised at how much data popular apps collect about you, both in the real world and online. iOS and Android offer some tools that can help reduce the amount of tracking these apps are allowed to do. But the aim of the game is always “how can we get money!”
3. Don’t fall for phishing or other scams!
It’s important to never give out personal information, or click on ANYTHING unless you know who it’s coming from and what it is! Even links sent from a friend or family member’s account could be a phisher attack. Phishers send emails that look like legitimate links/messages and rely on you to give up personal information like usernames and passwords so that they can commit follow up attacks on your accounts. Before clicking a link or volunteering information, be absolutely certain you know exactly what you are doing and trust the source!!
4. Don’t “friend” strangers, not everyone is who or what they seem!
A big one to discuss with your kids who use the internet and particularly social media is the risk of predators. These people are experts at pretending to be someone they are not in order to gain personal information and even to put kids in dangerous situations (both emotionally and physically). Discuss the use of photo editing and voice-altering filters and how these people are able to be VERY convincing and therefore always assume strangers online are not who they say they are. Therefore, we do not “friend” them, tell them our personal information or accept links, pics, or videos from them.
5. Treat people the way you expect to be treated!
Just like in the real world, unkind behaviour is never OK in the online world too. Make it clear that you expect your kids to treat others with respect, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages. And ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others post. Cyberbullying is a very real problem for our kids today, and in serious cases can be punishable by law.
6. Use those privacy settings and passwords!
Privacy settings are important. I suggest going through them together to make sure your kids understand each one and their importance. This helps them to not only learn, but to show that implementing such settings is about safety and not control. Also, explain that passwords are there to protect them against things like identity theft. They should never share them with anyone, even a boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend. Sharing passwords with parents is always ok and even advised (at least in the beginning) so some intermittent monitoring can occur.
7. Photo etiquette is a thing!
Discussing the use of photos online (and even on mobiles) is sometimes an overlooked but oh-so-important discussion to be had. There is the perhaps obvious rule of taking, sending, and receiving inappropriate photos. There are also laws against sending/receiving nude/sexual photos which vary for each state, so I suggest looking them up together to keep them informed. However, what is probably less discussed is general photo etiquette. Not everyone who consents to having their photo taken automatically consents to that photo being posted online (either in a private or public space) or being sent to someone else. It is important our kids know to ask if doing so is ok BEFORE posting or sending a photo of someone else.
8. Regularly check those privacy settings together!
Yep, we’re revisiting the privacy settings! Why? Because you can lock a social media profile down like fort Knox and get comfortable thinking it will stay that way, but on occasion, an update on an app can cause these settings to alter. Therefore, it’s important to routinely go through and double-check that all your privacy settings are giving you the level of privacy you require. Just like double-checking the front door is locked each night before you go to sleep!
9. The slippery slope that is sexting!
Even young tweens are engaging in the early stages of sexting these days. It has become normalised as a way of flirting and may start very innocently but can escalate quickly. There may be immense pressure to participate in such behaviour in order to “fit in”. This is why it’s important to talk to your kids openly about this behaviour and it’s risks. Let them know they can safely discuss these things with you. And again, make sure they understand the implications of how private messages and images may be used and shared inappropriately not matter how much they trust the other person.
10. Learn to unplug and (re)connect!
It is tempting for parents to crack down on screen time that isn't school-related, but kids often interact online socially these days, which is important for their development. The right amount of time spent online will vary from child to child, we suggest setting some clear boundaries and routines that allow for some screen-free time. Time to unplug and connect in a meaningful way to the present. Either participating in exercise, a social gathering, or even just partaking in some self-care or journaling. Learning to unplug is an invaluable tool for our kids (and us) to learn!
While we want our kids to “fit in” and to be savvy about the internet and all of it’s dangers, we also don’t want them to grow up too fast. It can be a tricky balance to find, but it’s important that we talk openly with our kids about social media and cyberbullying and listen to what they have to say in return.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with these 10 things every kid needs to know about social media? Let us know in the comments below!