Managing Social Media With Children

October 2018

The use of technology in our professional and private lives is continually increasing. Various devices, including tablets, smartphones, and desktop or laptop computers are used by adults, teenagers, and young children for work, education, and entertainment. The positive opportunities technology provides are significant. As many of us know, they also come with challenges. Once challenge that has become increasingly visible is the impact of social media (i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Club Penguin, etc.) on children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified a number of potential benefits from a child’s use of social media. They include developing communication skills, creating a sense of self, and discovering access to valuable information. These benefits are accompanied by potential risks including cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, and disengagement from face to face interactions with friends and family.

So what can families do to help children learn to use social media effectively in order to effectively manage the potential benefits and challenges? Some strategies identified by researchers include:

Create Ground Rules

If children are old enough to be using the computer on their own, they are old enough to understand that there are rules they need to abide by. Breaking them should not have a lesser consequence than if they broke a rule in the offline world. Parents and children should have open discussions about what the family’s rules mean, and how they will be applied.

Keep the Computer in a Central Location

It’s much easier to keep tabs on any online activity when the computer is located in a high-traffic zone than if a child is using a computer in the privacy of her own room. Place the computer in a central location like the kitchen or family room so that everything is out in the open.

Limit Cell Phone Use

Keeping tabs on social media activity can be more difficult with cell phones. Just as you would limit use of a computer, TV or gaming system, parents can do the same with a cell phone. Set rules for the device, only allowing cell phone usage at certain hours in the evening or after homework has been completed. With teens of driving age, the most important rule to enforce is that under no circumstances should cell phones ever be used while driving. Phones should be kept off so incoming text sounds aren’t a distraction or should be kept in the glove compartment, out of reach.

Be a Good Example of How to Use Social Media

If you are tweeting and updating your Facebook page at a stop light and taking every opportunity to “just check something,” you’re setting a poor precedent for social media usage that your child will surely follow. Always remember to ask yourself if you’re setting a good example and demonstrating proper technology etiquette as well

As parents thoughtfully and consistently manage their child’s use of social media, children will be much more likely to see the benefits of appropriate social media use, while avoiding the potential pitfalls.

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