Talking to Kids and Teens about Social Media

LIBERTY, February 21, 2018 - Today’s teens and tweens are connected to one another, and to the world, via digital technology more than any previous generation. Recent data suggests that social media venues like Facebook and Twitter have surpassed e-mail as the preferred method of communication in all age groups. While today’s tweens and teens may be more digitally savvy than their parents, their lack of maturity and life experience can quickly get them into trouble with these new social venues.  For this reason, it is imperative that parents talk with their children of all ages about social media and monitor their online social media use to help them navigate this new online social world. How parents talk with their kids and teens will vary slightly by age depending on the topic being discussed. These tips will help you start that journey with your family.

•Learn about these technologies first hand. There is simply no better way than to have a profile yourself. It will also enable you to "friend" your kids and monitor them on line.
•Let them know that their use of technology is something you want and need to know about.
◦For kids of all ages, ask daily: “Have you used the computer and the Internet today?”
◦Technology use will vary by age. Tweens are likely to be using more instant messaging and texting, while teens use those technologies and also networking sites such as Facebook. (These tools often are referred to as “platforms” for social networking.) Ask daily how your family used those tools with questions such as: “What did you write on Facebook today?” “Any new chats recently?” “Anyone text you today?”
◦Share a bit about your daily social media use as a way to facilitate daily conversation about your kids’ online habits.
◦Get your kids talking about their social media lives if you can just so you know what they are doing.
•Keep the computer in a public part of your home, such as the family room or kitchen, so that you can check on what your kids are doing online and how much time they are spending there.
•Talk with other parents about what their kids of similar ages are using for social media. Ask your kids about those technologies as a starting point for discussion. If they are in the same peer group, there is a good chance they are all using the same platforms together. For example:
◦For teens: “Mrs. Smith told me Jennifer uses Facebook. Is that something you’ve thought of doing? Do you already have a profile? If so, I’d like to see it.”
◦For tweens and older elementary school kids: “Are you planning on meeting up with kids on Club Penguin today? I’d love to see how that works.” Or, “Let’s look at your text log today together. I’d like to see who’s been texting you.”
•For all ages, emphasize that everything sent over the Internet or a cell phone can be shared with the entire world, so it is important they use good judgment in sending messages and pictures and set privacy settings on social media sites appropriately.
◦Discuss with kids of every age what “good judgment” means and the consequences of poor judgment, ranging from minor punishment to possible legal action in the case of “sexting” (see below) or bullying.
◦Remember to make a point of discouraging kids from gossiping, spreading rumors, bullying or damaging someone’s reputation using texting or other tools. 
◦To keep kids safe, have your kids and teens show you where the privacy features are for every social media venue they are using. The more private, the less likely inappropriate material will be received by your child, or sent to their circle of acquaintances.

 
 
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