Parenting in the new millennium has become more challenging for parents due to the rise in social media. Social media sites have become a large part of many of our everyday lives. The Pew Research Internet Project estimates that as of May 2013, 74 percent of adult women and 62 percent of men were users of social networking sites. The numbers are even higher for teens with an 81 percent social media usage rate according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
So as a parent you now have technology bursting at the seams. In addition to all of your other duties, you must now teach your children how to use and navigate social media sites with thought and care for their safety and well-being. They can access these sites from a cellular phone, iPad or laptop just about anywhere. Children don’t know it, but they may face real dangers by having the internet at their fingertips at all times. It is the parent’s responsibility to ensure their safety and educate them on these matters. Here are a few habits and rules that you should consider establishing with your children before allowing them to access any and all social media sites.
Set an Internet Access Curfew
For many school age children, the day begins at the crack of dawn. Your child requires a proper night’s rest in order to perform to his fullest ability while at school. Allowing your child to have internet access in his bedroom at all times of the day and night is a mistake. Your child must be taught early on that internet access is a privilege — not a right. Set a firm curfew when Internet access is shut down for the evening. You can just change the password on your router at a certain hour.
As a parent, you should understand and utilize parental controls to monitor your child’s Internet activity while she is online. First, have a discussion with your child regarding what social media sites are acceptable to visit while using the internet. Let her know that parental controls are in place. Make it clear that any deviation from the rules you set at this meeting will not be tolerated and consequences will be implemented. When the child knows that you’re monitoring her internet usage, she’ll think twice about visiting certain sites and making certain comments online. Many cell phone companies also offer parental control features.
Discretion and Privacy
When you discuss Internet use with your child, take time to talk about appropriate behavior. Some young children and teens think that it’s perfectly fine to share every detail of their lives online, such as their whereabouts and private pictures of themselves hanging out at parties. They don’t realize that in many cases, your social media presence as a youngster cannot ever be erased from history. Explain the consequences of oversharing, including but not limited to:
1) The possibility of challenges getting into college or finding work in the future if a hiring manager finds questionable social media activity.
2) Strangers can easily save their pictures.
3) People they don’t know (including marketers) can gather private information about them that could be used in many different ways for financial gain.
Parenting is a job that requires love, support, patience and diligence. Children should be taught to be aware of all risks to their safety and future, including those that present themselves on social media sites. They need to understand that giving the world full access to their everyday life is not the best idea. Implement these social media tips for parents and instill healthy Internet usage habits in your child starting today.
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