Social media helps to connect children with friends and family, allowing them to easily communicate and share what’s going on in their lives, among other benefits. But just because kids typically understand how to use social media platforms, they may not yet be able to understand the risks associated with its usage.GettyImages-1182866691

Here’s how you can help with their online safety with social media activity.

Educate yourself on the social media sites your child wants to use. This can involve setting up your own account and experimenting with using it, as well as reading reviews about the platform. Make sure your children understand that their posts, comments, shares and likes become part of their digital footprint, even when a post is deleted.

Perhaps even more important is talking to them about privacy issues, including when its appropriate (or not!) to share personal information such as phone numbers, hometowns, dates of birth, school names, family names and more. Most popular social media apps have a minimum age requirement, so enforce that. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for example, have a minimum age requirement of 13.

Consider using a “trusted security suite with parental controls on your child’s device. Enable all safety features that prevent children from accidentally being exposed to inappropriate content online.” Tell your child to only approve friend requests or otherwise add people to a social network if they’re known and trusted in the real world.

Explain how catfishers set up fake profiles to pose as someone else. For example, someone wanting to take advantage of young teens may set up a fake profile that makes it look as though he or she is of the same age. Signs of catfishing include profiles that have a limited number of photos, with existing ones looking staged; attempts to get your child to talk off the social media site; and requests for money, intimate photographs, phone numbers, or other real-world personal information.

After you establish rules for social media activity, have your child sign an actual agreement with you where they agree to abide by them. This can include privacy protection and online safety rules as well as an agreement to never bully someone else — or gossip about them — in real life or online. In turn, you might agree to “friend” your child online but not make embarrassing comments on their social media sites.

You can provide your child with the “What Would Grandma Say? (WWGS)” rule to help him or her decide whether a post is respectful. Before posting, your child can envision how Grandma might respond — or how a teacher might.

Tell them to think twice before posting, even when the content is positive; for example, sharing that your family is leaving for vacation is inappropriate content because it makes it easier for people to rob your home. Also talk to your kids about not sharing social media account passwords, even with good friends.

More Tips for Parents

Tempting as it might be to snoop around your child’s social media accounts, stick with the rules you’ve made in your agreement. Otherwise, you can damage the trust your child has in you. If you discover that your agreement doesn’t cover all that it should, perhaps in the area of social media safety, openly discuss modifying it and share why you’re doing that. The goal is to be involved in a way that helps your kids understand you respect their privacy but want to make sure they're safe.

Limit social media use by keeping computers in public areas in your home, rather than in bedrooms. Don’t allow mobile device use at dinner, and make sure you follow your own rules.

Also, watch for signs of Facebook Depression. Researchers have found that when kids look at happy posts on Facebook or Instagram, it can make them feel worse about their own lives, especially if they already have low self-esteem. They might imagine that other people’s lives are much better than their own, so be sure to point out that social media posts do not accurately reflect a person’s real life.

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