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Kids and Social Media

Do you remember when you had to have a college-associated email address to create a Facebook account? Gone are the days of special requirements online – social media has become a way of life.
 
While we remember passing artfully folded notes in class, bag phones, and eventually getting a pager, our kids will only know the world where the “past” was filled with iPads and Snapchat. But how are we talking to our kids about social media?
 
According to a report by Influence Central, on average, kids open their first social media account at 11 years old. Not only are many of these children unprepared with tactics for remaining safe online, but they have very little awareness of the consequences or permanence of what they share online. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your kids about social media in a developmentally appropriate way.
 
Children ages 6 to 12 think in concrete ways, and it’s not until adolescence they acquire the ability to think more abstractly. As a result, a younger child may not be able to analyze a situation accurately or picture how their actions or words could affect others. They’ll also have difficulty distinguishing between what is safe and risky.
 
And as kids age, so do the effects and severity of their connectivity. IFS confirms “that young people are increasingly at risk for depression, mental illness and suicide.” Words have power and what is posted online can never be taken back.
 
This affects adults too. In an article by aol.com, “According to a study from market analyst firm On Device Research, 1 in 10 young job seekers have lost a job opportunity because of their social media profiles. In the US alone, the total was 8 percent among those 16-24 years old and 5 percent for those 25-34 years old.”
 
In short, learning smart and conscientious social media habits should be a crucial part of growing up – and something we all practice.

As you may know, October is Cyber Safety Month (and Bullying Prevention Month), and while we’ve already written a whole blog about how to help your kids be safe online – we want to dive a little deeper into how you can help keep your kids informed of proper social media use.
 
  • Create a plan for how your family will use social media. It’s even better if the whole family adopts and practices the rules.
  • Explore any app your child is interested in, especially the privacy settings and only agree to what you’re comfortable with. Every platform is different, so be sure you’re up to date on the features of each one.
  • Discuss online safety early and often. Retain all logins and check their devices and accounts regularly. It may mean you have to talk about uncomfortable topics like “sexting,” but you’d rather they hear it from you.
  • Don’t let children sleep with devices in their rooms. This is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Practice the behavior you wish to see. It’s easy for us to spend every free moment scrolling through Facebook or checking to see if our Instagram followers are up, but these things are noticed by little eyes. When we create healthy boundaries around our social media consumption – it will be much easier to enforce limits with our kids.