Ask any parenting speaker, social media expert, or social networking consultant and they’ll tell you: Keeping kids safe on social networks and social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a top priority for today’s family. But best practices and step-by-step instructions for doing so are hard to come by. Thankfully, ensuring your children are enjoying a positive online experience doesn’t have to be difficult. Take it from a parenting speaker who knows: Employing a few simple tips and tricks is the fastest way towards putting your family on the path to enjoying a healthy relationship with all things high-tech. Following, you’ll find seven ways to help keep kids safe on social networks.
Avoid Negative Situations – The golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies just as much online as it does offline. Teach kids to avoid saying anything negative about specific people, places, classmates, etc., not only because it is hurtful behavior, but it’s almost certain that engaging in this manner will come back to haunt them in the future. Focusing on positivity and avoiding negative comments, status updates and tweets is the best advice for participating on social networks.
Keep the Future in Mind – It’s hard for kids to look ahead since here and now is most often what they are focused on. But for older teens who envision college and jobs in their future, the permanence of whatever they put out on their social networks is a very important lesson to teach. Anything they have made public via social media has a long shelf life that could negatively impact their future opportunities.
Use Common Sense – Advise your kids not to spread rumors, innuendo, name-calling and negative gossip. If they can’t back up what it is they’re posting online by being willing to say it directly to others in real life, then they shouldn’t put it out there for the world at large to see.
Track Their Time – After you set time limits for children, take this parenting speaker’s advice and come up with a timer or other way to track kids’ online social network usage at home or in the classroom. It’s easy to whittle away the hours checking out photos or interacting with friends, time which is often supposed to be used for more important tasks, i.e. studying and homework.
Police Others in Your Kids’ Networks – Don’t be afraid to ask others to remove photos, videos, comments or tags of you or your kids from their profile which you don’t approve of. Any friends won’t want to do anything which could offend you or make you feel comfortable, and it will likely even spark a dialogue as to what is and isn’t inappropriate for others to share about your kids.
Respect Boundaries – Although we do recommend that you connect with your kids on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social network they may be on, you as a parent and teacher (where allowed) need to also know your boundaries, just as you do in real life. Refrain from posting to their Timeline on Facebook, making embarrassing statements and attempting to connect with their real-life pals online – you may think you’re chummy in real-life, but kids may feel less so than you suspect, or simply be sensitive with regard to perceptions of personal space (online or otherwise).
Provide Balance – An important point we always touch on as parenting speakers as well: Encourage kids to spend at least an equivalent amount of time as they spend on social networks engaging in real-life activities. Whether it’s simply requiring certain exchanges or types of communication to be done via phone or in person, or setting aside time for activities not related to online social efforts to be enjoyed, parenting speakers and experts agree that a healthy balance between online time spent on social networks and other real-world, face-to-face and outdoor activities is essential for a balanced lifestyle. When kids are on social networks, consider pointing out if real-life friends are online – and encourage them to connect more in the actual world.
For more information on protecting kids on Facebook and monitoring their usage, here are several great additional resources:
Connect Safely Guide To Facebook – This 36-page guide dedicated exclusively to Facebook is put together by Internet Safety experts Larry Magid and Anne Collier.
Facebook Family Safety Center – Facebook safety page featuring broad overviews as well as detailed categories for teachers, teens, parents and law enforcement.
Twitter Safety Tips for Parents – Twitter Basics page designed for parents to answer questions about aspects of teen safety for users of the service.
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