Teens may be leaving Facebook, but they’re not abandoning social media altogether. In fact, kids are joining social media networks at earlier and earlier ages, leaving many parents to wonder how young is too young. Though the answer may vary from kid to kid and family to family, parents need to prep their kids before unleashing them on social media platforms. Here are a few important points to discuss with your child before giving them the go-ahead to set up a profile.
### Nothing is private online
Although it is a good idea to sit down with your child and set up appropriate privacy settings on his or her social media network of choice, it may be even more important to educate kids about the lack of privacy online. Beginning social media users need to understand that even if they choose to share pictures and status updates with friends only, there’s nothing stopping these friends from disseminating the information all over the web. Screenshots are also easily taken and downloaded, leaving a permanent record of potentially any post shared over the Web.
### Social media isn’t reality
Have you ever felt jealous of a Facebook friend’s “perfect” life? If so, then you know how easy it is to create a false sense of reality online. Prepare your child for this by having the “edited reality” talk prior to allowing social media interactions. Explain that there’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward on social media networks (in fact, it’s encouraged!), but it’s easy to give in to feelings of envy if you mistake someone’s online presence as real life.
### Stranger danger!
The idea of making new friends online may seem harmless to your kid (or even you), but it’s important to beware of the dangers. Anyone can pretend to be a tween or teen behind the anonymity of a computer monitor, and many sex offenders use social media networks as tools for tracking down their prey. Instruct your child to use social media networks to interact with only those friends they know in real life.
### Cyberbullying hurts
No form of bullying is acceptable, but in many ways, cyberbullying can be even more harmful to kids and have led many to depression and even suicide. Educate your child about the cyberbullying phenomenon and let him or her know that cruelty online is never ok. Be sure your kid knows to come to you if someone says something hurtful to him or anyone else on a social media platform.
Other TipsIt may be wise for young kids to begin with a social media network that is heavily moderated like Club Penguin, for instance. Follow your kids on social media networks. You’re not invading their privacy—it doesn’t exist online!Trust, but verify! Use Qustodio’s advanced social media monitoring tool to keep tabs on who your child is chatting with via social media.
Studies have shown that social media networking can be good for kids, and let’s face it—it’s a tool they will need as they mature into budding young professionals. Get them started on the right track by teaching them safe networking early on.
Note: The opinions above belong to Melissa Maypole, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio. Download Qustodio’s free software to begin managing, monitoring, and understanding your kids’ online media consumption today.