I don’t have kids yet but I do speak to many parents who ask me for advice on what their social media policy should be at home. Usually, it makes me laugh because I never thought about creating a social media policy for home use, since I usually create them for non-profits and small businesses. My usual response is, “Well, how much are YOU online?”
- Facebook has more than 500 million registered users (Facebook, 2010).
- 73% of 12- to 17-year olds have at least one social networking profile (Pew, 2010).
- Facebook does not allow children under 13 to have an account, yet approximately 7.5 million kids under 13 in the United States are on Facebook (Consumer Reports, 2010)
This is an important question to ask yourself because you might be setting these behavioral patterns for your children. Children, despite what they tell you, crave love and attention and when you are online and too busy texting, emailing, Facebooking, Tweeting, Linking, etc, then your children are competing with those sources for attention. If you ignore them, then they will take on the behavior that you have showed them. It’s almost like a “monkey see, monkey do.”
Facebook has a section of their website devoted to teen safety and safe internet practices. Although they still have a long way to go, this site provides a great breakdown of what you can do to protect your teens online. I’ve compiled the top 5 things I believe you can do to have a safe internet practices at home.
Top 5 Ways to Create Safe Internet Practices At Home
1. Discuss their online presence
Sit down with your child and let them know that you are trusting them enough to allow them create their own profile. Let them know that you will set limitations to their online sites for their protection and to ensure that they are not being bullied or harassed. Start this conversation early on and talk to them about having a healthy online presence by being responsible and about what they post. Discuss what is appropriate information to post online and what can be potentially harmful to them.
2. If in doubt, take it out.
Some of the best sites online recommend this practice. Let your kids know that if the post feels wrong or “icky” then use the “remove” button and take it down. If anybody tags them in a post that is inappropriate, embarrassing, or dangerous in any way, then have them take it down or remove it for them. Don’t question it, just remove it. Simple.
3. Set an example
Your kids are mimicking the behaviors that you are showing. Keep your own digital footprint clean by posting appropriate content online. Sometimes they are your friends online and they will be watching the pictures, updates and anything else that you post online. Be mindful of the idea that they are watching you as much as you are watching them.
4. Tell your teen to stop, smell the flowers, and blow out the candle before they post
This was a quote that my little sister learned in kindergarten because of her bad temper. The idea was to provide a moment of self reflection so that she could calm down and not throw a tempter tantrum. Use this rule with your children as well and teach them to stop and self reflect before they post anything online. Teens are especially emotional most of the time (I should know, I was a teenager once) and they can get caught up in the moment and post things that are hurtful to themselves or to someone else. Don’t let them become get caught up in that moment because it can lead to further consequences for their online reputation. Remind them that someone is always watching them, whether it’s family, friends or school administrators.
5. Talk to your kids before you “Friend” them
This might sound a bit ridiculous, but consider Facebook to be a closed door to their room. Knock before your enter, or else they lose their mind. Ask to friend them and chose your battles. If you are your teen’s friend, don’t fill their Facebook timeline or wall with comments, and whatever you do don’t “friend” their friends. That’s embarrassing and crossing the line. Many parents say Facebook is the only way they know what’s going on in their teens’ life, so be careful and be respectful. Understand that you’ll see the good, the bad, and the questionable. If you don’t want your kids to unfriend you, don’t ask them about every single post, picture or update. Keep it simple and choose your battles wisely.