Love it or hate it, social media is a popular tool for people all around the world. Your children probably share everything from pictures to their daily activities with their virtual friends. While some children may have private accounts on sites such as Facebook, others may be more public about what they are doing. Sometimes sharing intimate details with strangers they’ve never met. Much of what is put online goes to people your children don’t know, which makes monitoring your child’s social media accounts an important task.
How can you assure your children are safe online without completely infringing on their personal lives?
First of all, get over the idea that monitoring your children’s online activity is bad. It’s important that you understand what your children are saying and sharing on social media. Child development professor Dorothy Espelage states that parental monitoring is key in keeping kids away from dangerous situations, alcohol and drugs, and other deviant behavior.
Cyber security expert Theresa M. Payton explains that one way to monitor your children’s online use is by using passwords on your devices, especially with younger children. This way, if they want to play online they have to ask you first.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Lee Hauser recommends talking to your children about the dangers that happen when children share too much information online. Some parents may balk at sharing the scary stories, but if your child doesn’t understand the potential danger, they could inadvertently be placed in a dangerous situation.
Keep social media out of the bedroom. Payton says children, particularly those in middle school, should not take their iPod, phone and or other tablets into the bedroom because this is where Internet crimes against children happen. Keep the computers in a common area where you can walk by and see what they are doing at any time.
Understand that some social media sites are designed for adults, not children. If your ten year old wants to join Facebook, explain that it’s a site that was designed for adults and that they could potentially be exposed to a variety of adult conversations, topics, cartoons and other information. Internet safety expert Mary Kay Hoal recommends showing your children social media sites designed for younger ages, such as Yoursphere.
And if your children do become active online, make sure to befriend your child on social media and follow them so you can see what they are saying. While you may think it is intrusive to see what your child is posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other popular social media sites, parenting author Harry H. Harrison Jr. reminds parents that children don’t often understand how what they post now could later infringe on their future lives. Harrison tells parents to monitor their child’s online activity the same way they monitor their child’s television watching.
While social media is a new thing for many parents, it has become an important part of the social life of today’s kids. Therefore, it’s imperative parents teach their children safe social media practices while monitoring their use of these sites.