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Safe social media 101

Safe social media 101

If you’re like many people, the thought of learning about and understanding today’s world of social media seems overwhelming.

It’s true that to learn all about all the social media sites or apps and how to use them and all of their features would take many hours and probably still leave us confused. Yet we are told we must be aware of how our kids are using social media and help them to be safe. Thankfully, you don’t have to be an expert to help your kids establish some basic limits and protections to make it less likely that they will become victims of the negative consequences that can occur when social media is used.

  1. Let’s talk! Have a conversation about what they use and have them demonstrate. Ask to see a site or their “page.” Many parents open accounts of their own and try things out for themselves. There is nothing like hands on knowledge to really understand something. Get used to using the terms they do, like “tweeting,” “posting,” and “snapshot.” And if you don’t know what it is, ask. If they are laughing over an online video, ask them to share it with you. Don’t criticize their cyber world because this is the world they live in and it is very important to them.
  2. Know the rules. Most social media sites have a minimum age limit to participate. Find out what it is and use it as a guideline for when your child may be allowed to open an account. Thirteen is the typical age for most of them. Establish your own age limit so that your kids know when they will be allowed to join. This may avoid them setting up an account secretly.
  3. Adjust the privacy settings. Find out about what privacy settings they have set up on each account. Sit with them and have them regularly check on these and make sure they are updated if necessary. Sites often update and change, so some settings may be out of date.
  4. Set parameters. While it’s difficult to limit where they use their phone, you can limit computer or tablet use to a common area of your house. Consider an agreement for putting away their phone at a certain time in the evening, in a mutually-agreed area that is not in their room. Let them help make the agreement and let them know you will respect their privacy unless there is a reason not to.
  5. Learn from your kids. Take advantage of natural learning opportunities when you can talk together about social media-related issues that are on the news or happen to people they know. Avoid being judgmental and try to help them see how the situations could have been avoided. They will probably educate you in the process!

If you try to let social media into your world you will find yourself learning many new things about your children’s world, and you may find a whole new way to get and stay closer with them as you both grow into tech savvy adults.

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About the Author

Sharon Klingman
Sharon Klingman

Sharon Klingman is a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified alcohol & drug counselor with Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health in Normal, Ill. Her specialties include marital, child and adolescent counseling, parenting issues, addiction, depression and anxiety.