Social media is a constant in most of our lives and, increasingly, in those of our children. It can be tricky balancing the wishes of your kids to connect with their friends, alongside warning them of the dangers and enlightening them about the positives. This means you need to take an approach that arms them with the knowledge they need to make the most of it and stay safe. This is why we have created this social media guide for parents.
It is essentially some golden rules to help your children approach social media in a healthy way and understand how they use it and why.
Social media guide for parents
1. Learn about their social media world
Start by exploring what social media your children are interested in – what they use, how they use it and why, and actually ask them what they love and dislike about different platforms. Work out what they know and understand and remember that it’s important to meet them in their experience without judgement. If you belittle their world, they won’t talk to you about social media in the future.
2. Address any potential problems through storytelling
Involve your children in discussing stories or scenarios featuring tricky situations that they might encounter. It will help them to identify them with real people and situations. Talk about issues like cyberbullying, peer pressure, sharing nudes, oversharing, body image, blackmail, radicalisation and other such topics. Use problem-solving to talk about avoiding these situations.
3. Make sure children know what’s acceptable
Make sure children are clear on what is acceptable and safe to put on social media as well as discussing the laws regarding what you can put online. Discuss what’s legal, appropriate and inappropriate in social media use.
Help them understand their own roles and responsibilities when they share content online. Ensure they understand how digital data can get out, how to manage privacy online, and the importance of being kind.
4. Help them learn to spot fake news
Develop their ability to evaluate content and interactions online. This is a key element of this social media guide for parents. Find examples of fake news and discuss what might indicate it was fake, and how important it is not to believe everything they read. This is not only important in a wider sense in society, but scepticism will also help protect them from cybercrime too.
5. Offline wellbeing is relevant to online behaviour
How young people feel about themselves generally, and not just in relation to their online life and social media accounts, has a direct bearing on their behaviour both on and offline. Develop their confidence, wellbeing and resilience, as this will also influence their actions online and offline. It’s important not to use fear, but to develop their confidence to manage risks.
6. Discuss the good side of social media with them
Social media is, of course, vitally important for keeping people – and particularly young people – connected. There are also opportunities to learn and grow as a person. Talk about this with your kids, and also look at the wider positive aspects of social media and the internet. This will help them develop a positive digital footprint.
7. Be a role model
Make sure you’re setting a good example to your kids with your own social media use – you shouldn’t have one rule for them and another rule for yourself. Social media can be a powerful force for good, but it starts with our own understanding and confidence. Our children need life skills for the digital world, and you have a big role in helping them with this.