Social Media: Suggestions and Solutions.
Social Media has connected us in ways we were unable to connect in years past. Catching up with childhood friends, sharing pictures with extended family and creating awareness of different philanthropic ventures. There are certainly benefits. In fact, TLO couldn’t do what we do without social media. It’s an amazing avenue to communicate and share resources and information.
Social Media is, of course, not without it’s challenges. Social exclusion and bullying that once only occurred at school now follow kids home via social media, texting and other apps. This is happening around the clock in children’s most private spaces, their homes and their bedrooms. Often assumed to be private, messages are screenshot and forwarded or saved to be used later as social ammunition.
Aside from the drama, tweens and teens are at a very sensitive period of developing their identities. They depend on peers and trusted adults to help them do this. In an online world, they often seek validation on social media sites where the funniest, most extreme posts usually win. This may be why 77% of teens agree that people are less authentic or real on social media.
To learn more about Social Media and Mental Health, click here.
Benefits and Cost of Social Media in Adolescence - American Academy of Pediatrics
Social Media and Teen Anxiety - Harvard Graduate School of Education
The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Children Online - Ariel Hochstadt, Formerly Gmail Marketing Manager globally for Google. He is the co-founder of vpnMentor and an advocate of online privacy.
Considering delaying social media and other apps as long as possible.
Introduce technology slowly
Teach kids how to use a phone to, you know, make phone calls. Greeting, introducing self, ending a conversation, leaving a message. They don’t know how to do this and they need to.
Give kids an opportunity to master texting before introducing other apps.
Talk about how they’re using texting, make sure they’re doing so appropriately and mindfully then introduce other apps. They’re busy and they’re inexperienced. They are unable to manage more than 2-4 apps.
Always talk about what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Don’t allow kids to use social media and other apps before they reach the required age (13). Consider waiting even longer. Cyberbullying is most intense in middle school and early-high school.
Limit the amount of time kids spend online and on social media. Help them disconnect. Let them blame you.
Keep the computer in a public place, so you can monitor your child’s online activity.
Review “screen-time” apps, like Apple’s Screen-Time, with your teen and discuss how much time they’re spending on social media.
We know social media plays to the emotional part of our brains. Encourage kids to utilize the thinking part of their brains by self-reflecting on how social media makes them feel after 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour. What other activities are they missing out on when they’re spending time on social media? How can they connect with friends IRL (in real life)?
Prepare your children to be safe and healthy in an online world
Talk about healthy and safe technology use early and often, even before children have access. Model appropriate behavior and show them examples of inappropriate behavior in your own life. (Everyone has them)
Make sure they know that they should always talk to a trusted adult about any online situations which make them feel uncomfortable, even if they are not directly involved.
Establish a list of trusted adults whom they feel comfortable talking to.
Establish a list of situations that your child may learn about online that are just too big for her to deal with alone. (For example: mental or physical abuse or threats, suicidal thoughts or threats, sexual harassment or abuse, child pornography, risky behaviors, drug or alcohol use, texting while driving, etc..)
Who constitutes a friend online? People you spend time with offline. Tweens and teens have a hard time distinguishing who a real friend is and who isn’t. For example: Family, neighbors, classmates, teammates are real friends. Acquaintances are not.
Understand school policies around technology use on and off school property. (For example: schools are required to report child pornography to the police and to deal with online bullying regardless of where or when the event takes place).
Utilize screen usage apps like Apple’s new Screen Time and Moment. Other products, like Disney’s Circle, help parents manage overall technology use.
Educate kids about online strangers and child predators. Make sure they know that they should never contact or respond to a stranger. They should always tell an adult if they or someone they know is contacted.
Talk about and use privacy settings
Group chats can be tricky. Talk about why.
Turn off location settings and use/monitor other privacy settings to protect your child.
Utilize privacy settings to make accounts as private as possible.
Talk with your child about personal information being shared online and who can access that information (according to a recent Pew Survey, 71% of teens shared their school, 71% shared their city or town, 16% automatically include location in posts.)
Respect other people’s privacy - do not take and/or post pictures/videos of others, ever, without their (or in the case of children under 13, their parents’) consent.
Encourage teens to delete “friends” who make them feel uncomfortable or unhappy.
Assure kids it’s ok to delete their names from posts and/or pictures they are tagged in.
Explain and make sure they understand lack of privacy. Once they post and send something, anyone could see it, including schools, other adults, strangers, future coaches, universities, employers, the Russian government (ha!). In an online world, nothing is private.
Give them a list of big questions to consider before posting:
Why am I posting this?
Who is it for?
What is the intention?
How is it interrupted?
Why do people like it?
Discuss intent vs. impact. (93% of communication is non-verbal, including body language and tone of voice). What does this mean for communicating online?
Talk about brain development and behavior
Kids want to understand how their brains are developing and how technology and social media affect this development. Arm them with information so they can use social media intelligently.
Show or tell an adult about any inappropriate texts, especially “sexting.”
“Delete don’t repeat” unless you need to show an adult.
Stand up for yourself (“do not take/post/share a picture of me,” “you have to delete that” “I will get in trouble”).
Don’t engage in online bullying, social drama, exclusion.
Don’t post status updates or pictures intended to make people feel bad or left out.
Romantic Partnerships and Child Pornography
Talk with teens about the dangers of sending flirtatious or provocative pictures. 23% of “entry-level, online teen daters” have sent “sexy or flirty” pictures or videos.
Call sexting by it’s real name - Child Pornography. And explain to kids that this is a Federal Offense. It is a school’s responsibility to report child pornography even if it does not occur on school property or during school hours.
Social media publicizes relationships (According to a Pew Survey, fully 69% of teen social media users with dating experience agree that too many people can see what’s happening in their relationship on social media, with 16% indicating that they “strongly” agree. ). Assure teens that it’s ok to take relationships offline and to delete posts that make them feel uncomfortable.
Assure kids that they never have to reply in an uncomfortable situation.
Assure kids that there is no time limit in which you have to respond.