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Essential Dos And Don’ts Of Social Media Safety For Kids

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Essential Dos And Don’ts Of Social Media Safety For Kids

During my childhood, I had minimal online supervision. My parents lacked awareness of the internet’s potential risks. To them, it was merely an educational tool for research and school reports. Meanwhile, for me, it became a gateway to the external world that I had been sheltered from. Online, I could interact with friends at any time, browse freely, play video games, and watch movies my parents would likely have forbidden. Despite being a “good” child, I felt tempted on several occasions to chat with boys. It quickly dawned on me that internet and social media safety for kids deserved more attention.

Now, as a mother, I comprehend the importance of staying updated about the apps and technology that my kids will eventually have access to. While I enjoy aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, I have reservations about allowing my children to use similar platforms. At 6 and 5 years old, it’s relatively simple to enforce restrictions on my phone’s apps. However, discussions with friends and family with pre-teens and teenagers have revealed their challenges in monitoring their kids’ app usage, especially on platforms like TikTok. Understanding that I will face similar circumstances in the future, I sought advice from two experts in social media safety for kids to assist parents in navigating this complex issue.

Essential Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Safety for Kids

Dos: Familiarize Yourself with the Popular Apps (and Games) Among Kids and Teens

“The extent of parental involvement in apps varies based on the app and the child’s age,” explained Mark, a social media specialist and founder of Marks Get Set. “However, parents should generally have some awareness of their children’s app usage to stay abreast of potentially hazardous trends. Additionally, parents should ensure that their children engage with apps responsibly and comprehend the potential risks,” he added.

Dos: Establish Clear Guidelines

I encountered cyberbullying experiences during my youth on platforms like Facebook. Due to the lack of open communication between my parents and me, I struggled to articulate the distressing situations. I felt unsafe at home as other teens could harass me through hurtful messages or derogatory comments on my photos. Given that some parents are unaware of online bullying and potential risks posed by adults, it becomes crucial to educate oneself about potential online threats and devise safety strategies with your child.

“Regarding social media such as TikTok, parents should monitor their children’s interactions and set clear guidelines. Initiating a dialogue with your children about online safety and establishing ground rules is important. For instance, agreeing on an appropriate daily social media usage duration or defining suitable content for sharing. Additionally, parental controls can aid in managing your child’s social media activity,” suggested Mark.

Although my husband and I had unrestricted internet access in our youth, we have mutually established rules with our children. Despite their tender age, we are habituating transparency with their tablets by informing them about monitoring and setting usage limits.

When discussing parental controls with Mark, he recommended, “I suggest transparency and sharing of passwords, combined with the use of parental/family controls. Parents must be vigilant about their children’s online activities and have the capability to monitor their behavior.”

Don’t: Rely Solely on Parental Controls

“At times, parents seek quick solutions for their social media concerns, such as a parental control granting visibility into all their children’s activities or a blanket prohibition on specific apps. However, teenagers can circumvent controls, and when one app is prohibited, a similar alternative emerges,” shared Deborah, a parenting expert and Parenthood365 founder.

Dos: Initiate Dialogue

“Rather than depending solely on parental controls, it is more beneficial, albeit challenging, to engage in ongoing discussions about digital life,” suggested Deborah. “Keep the conversation alive. Remember that teens are more driven by pleasure than fear, so warnings based on fear appear tone-deaf compared to the dopamine rush from social media interactions,” she emphasized.

Deborah also advised parents to approach their teen’s digital life with genuine curiosity. “What piques their interest? Which are their preferred apps? What bothers them? Do not underestimate teens’ analytical abilities. Utilize this to engage in discussions about big tech algorithms, the darker side of seemingly flawless influencers, and the influential role of social media in fostering ethical actions. Share your own digital experiences with them,” added Deborah.

Dos: Maintain Open Communication

During my upbringing, I learned about the perils of meeting people online. While some risks are genuine, I have also formed profound friendships online and utilized social media for professional purposes. I contemplated the most effective approach to maintain open communication with my children while ensuring their safety.

Discussing protected chatting with my children, I consulted professionals for their recommendations.

“When it pertains to the hazards of confidential messaging and engaging with possibly risky individuals on software, I recommend guardians manage applications such as TikTok by actively participating in their child’s online engagements. Keep the lines of interaction open with your child, and ensure to oversee their activity on all social media platforms. Additionally, it is crucial to enlighten your child about online security and prompt them not to disclose personal details to unknown individuals. Ultimately, if they have any concerns, make sure kids feel comfortable reaching out to a trusted adult for guidance,” he explained.

Initiate dialogues and safe actions from an early age, and integrate it into your family’s safety strategy just like you would with setting limitations about conversing with unfamiliar individuals in person.

Do not disregard your intuition. Mamas possess that gut feeling for a purpose. If your kids insist that everyone uses a certain app and it’s harmless, and you still feel uneasy about it, adhere to that sentiment. Social media can be an effective method to connect, but it also provides strangers, friends, and bullies access to your child at all hours. While we all want to trust that our children are candid and truthful, that is not always the reality.

Upon encountering a TikTok raising awareness about the risks of children being lured to upload improper videos in private, I was instantly grateful for the caution on a software that I use daily. Predators can be exceedingly sly—from inappropriate content on well-liked games like Roblox to privately messaging children on TikTok. Stay vigilant, rely on your intuition, and engage in open discussions with your spouse, caregivers, and children to ensure everyone is aligned.

Exhibit wholesome social media practices. As a guardian, it may be simple to instruct our children to adhere to what we say, not what we do, but as many of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s understand, that method of parenting did not deter kids from exploring. When I inquired Deborah, she provided valuable insights.

“Engage in family conversations about tech-healthy behaviors—for both you and them. One of the more harmful aspects of social media is not the content but how it can disrupt sleep, something adolescents genuinely require for mental well-being. Endow them with the authority to call you out when your own tech habits are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. All of this cultivates trust. Regulations and restrictions are vital—that’s part of our duty as guardians. However, even more crucial is the ongoing dialogue about the REASONS behind the regulations. That’s where learning occurs,” Deborah shared.

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