Guiding your child’s Social Media usage

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Social Media Week is a good time to talk about the good , the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to Social Media. Even the most conservative person uses one form of Social Media or the other, from Whats app to Snap chat it has gradually become the norm. One of the good things about Social Media is how it makes communication However like we know social media ’s not without its ills. From cyber bullying, to false news and all sorts of vices exist and one most thread cautiously. Children and young adults are especially vulnerable and need to be taught social media safety and etiquette.

For example Facebook morphs between a nice place where you could catch up with old friends to a boxing arena where verbal exchanges take place between friends and strangers alike. Cyber bullying is even occurring among teens and people just don’t know how to behave online. However the web can be a beautiful place if we all just learn to behave properly there. Here are some ways you can make the World Wide Web a saner place for our children and everyone.

Get on board : The best way to teach a child how to swim is by getting in the water. While I’m not advocating stalking your child , the truth is that being on social media yourself you will understand all the issues therein. This will put you in a good position to advice on pros and cons of different sites and apps.

Talk about it: You should have much needed conversations with your children about safe online behaviour. Tell them the importance of privacy settings, not talking to strangers and how to behave online.

Avoid hot topics: If you avoid controversy it won’t find you. Teach your children to stay off certain discussions online . They should avoid gossiping or spreading rumours about their peers. They should also avoid arguing about elections, religion and each others families as such things can get very heated if care isn’t taken.

Due diligence: with the arrival of new apps like “likee” and “tik tok” we need to audit the apps our children use and make sure we are comfortable with them using them. Recently my daughter wanted to join some social networking app because her friends were on it and I had to sit down with her and find an online review. After we had read it together she was convinced it was best avoided for now. A good site for reviews is commonsensemedia.org .

Pause before you post: Teach them the importance of pausing before they post. They can ask themselves the following questions …is what you are about to post necessary ? Is it something you may regret later ? They must learn never to post in fits of anger as even when you take down your post the internet never forgets. Also no matter the provocation our youngsters should learn to never air their dirty linen online or engage in unnecessary online arguments.

Limit their time online: To be fair I am not sure anyone under 13 has no business on social media, and even at this age you need to set the rules. Try creating a family Media plan telling your family where and when they can use the Internet, what social media platforms they can use and what they are allowed to post. If you can’t create your own plan then download one  here. At night it may be a good idea to hold on to your children’s gadgets and monitor their online activity. Try ensuring they are are safe while online by installing web filtering software.

Look out for signs of cyber bullying : Try and look out for signs of cyber bullying like your child showing signs of being depressed or suddenly becoming withdrawn. Another sign could be your child suddenly loosing interest in their phone or acting weird around their phone or other gadgets.The important thing is to be close to your child so that they learn it’s ok to confide in you if they are being harassed, trolled or bullied online.

Teach them to be kind: Just like they would not want to be the subject of hurtful remarks, comments or bullying they too should learn to be kind to other online. The somewhat faceless nature of the internet has enabled many online trolls who leave hurtful comments or make posts that are nothing short of evil. So remember to teach them do unto others as they would like to be done unto them and be kind and courteous online.

Put your phone down: teach them to socialise and learn not to look at every single  notification the moment it comes in, especially when they are with other people. Explain to them that it can be really rude when you are having a discussion with someone and your eyes and hands are constantly on your phone. They can try checking their phones at certain times a day only.

Model the right behaviour :  “Do as I do don’t do as I say” or something like that was a popular game at parties growing up. Children model behaviour so it would be rather hypocritical and a bit ineffective if you asked your child to behave a certain way on social media when you do the exact opposite. As in really who’s fooling who? While you are an adult and not bound by the same rules it’s important that your children see you as a role-model and mentor as it makes it easier for them to obey when what you say and what you do are in sync.

These are some guides which can help us and our children navigate Social Media. What advice has worked with guiding your children online ?

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