The Challenge of Discussing Social Media Safety with Your Child

Today’s children are most certainly social media savvy. Older kids, especially teens, often know much more than their parents about technology and social networks. Parents in their late 30s and older might not use social media because it wasn’t popular during their school years. That being stated, this is not an excuse for parents to let their children use social media in a haphazard manner. Social media has the potential to ruin your child’s life, so don’t take it lightly.

If you don’t fully understand what social media is all about, take some time to learn about it. Head on over to popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Learning about these platforms will help you understand why they are so risky for kids. While social media can be incredibly fun, it can also lead to terrible outcomes like over-sharing, cyber-bullying, increased peer pressure, child abduction and sexual molestation.

Safety Risks

Even if your children haven’t had any bad experiences on social media, it is imperative that you speak with them at length about its safety risks. Kids dive head first into new technologies without thinking about what might be lurking in the shadows. It is our responsibility as parents to tell them about the possible negative outcomes of improper social media use. Start out your conversation by stating that you know how much your child loves their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. Recognize the merits of these networks right away so that your child believes that you aren’t acting like an overbearing helicopter parent.

Once you’ve sung the praises of social media, it is time to transition to your concern over the manner in which your child uses the technology. Don’t do all the talking at this point. Ask your child what they like to do on social media, what websites they visit and with whom they interacts on these platforms. Ask if they have ever been bullied or asked to share inappropriate pictures of themselves on social media. Ask them if they have ever been approached by strangers, adults or other malicious individuals through social media. Let them speak about what they believe to be a danger on these platforms. If they don’t recognize any potential dangers, you must educate them at length about the evils that lurk in the shadows. Explain to them that bad people use these networks to lure children into sending them sexually oriented pictures. They also attempt to convince them to meet in person. Then segue into the topic of online bullying and peer pressure.

Moderation May Be Key

If your children seem disinterested or unconcerned about social media safety, don’t overreact and delete their social media accounts. Kids are smart and resourceful. They’ll find a way to create a secret account on a school computer or on a friend’s device. Also, consider that kids without social media accounts often find it difficult to fit in around their friends. Instead of banning social media, spend time monitoring your child’s social media activity. If you notice any improper or naive behavior, make a note of it and bring it up with your child.

Ideally, your child will attentively listen to your words of wisdom regarding social media safety. Unfortunately, most kids will only absorb a small amount of what you have to say. However, that might be all that is necessary. If you plant the seed in your child’s mind that there is the potential for her to be cyber bullied, peer pressured or stalked by a child molester, she’ll approach social media with an extra bit of caution that might end up making an enormous difference.

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