If you are on any social media platforms, you have likely already been bombarded by the dramas of the day; Dani Mathers is being investigated by police for a body-shaming snapchat, Kim Kardashian posted a video of Taylor Swift talking to Kanye West, and responses are coming out of the woodwork from multiple celebrities.
As Wediko’s Public Relations Coordinator, I can confidently say that Wediko has no interest in commenting on these events. What we are interested in, however, is the broader implications of social media usage for at-risk youth. A lot of young people are overly concerned by the popularity contest that is essentially what the liking system has become. With the #1 place to buy Instagram likes may be through sites like Buzzoid, being able to keep your child happy online without fearing the competition and the need to be popular through social media, as a parent, in this technologically advanced world, that is a positive step forward.
Mainly, privacy is never a guarantee because nothing ever truly disappears. Even posts on Snapchat, a social app famous for shared pictures and videos that ‘disappear’ within seconds, can be saved permanently. This function has left Taylor Swift, Dani Mathers, and countless others facing repercussions for content they claim was intended to be private.
In this age of constantly evolving social media, which increasingly emphasizes and celebrates oversharing, parents/guardians can be left out at sea. Here are 8 tips for helping children navigate social media.
- Learn the lingo – Simply put, you cannot effectively manage things you do not understand. The first step to being an effective partner in your child’s social media experience is getting up-to-speed on which platforms do what, who is using them, what their icons look like, and what their functionality is. Great resources already exist for parents to better understand Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the other platforms kids are using. Need additional help? Comment below and get your questions answered by a real life millennial (me)! Speaking of questions…
- Ask open questions – No matter how much you read about/use social media platforms, you are playing a losing game of catch-up. Today’s children grew up with this method of communication; it is already an ingrained part of their lives. So, create dialogue about their social sharing by asking open-ended questions. Be sure to talk to your children about privacy. Inquiring without judgment into their social media habits increases the likelihood that you’ll hear about what’s really happening online. Plus, they’ll probably teach you a thing or two (whether they intended to or not)!
- Set clear expectations – Based on what you learned independently and your child’s current online presence, set clear and realistic expectations about what is/isn’t allowed. This can, and should, include topics like selfies (and what is being worn in those selfies), language, and privacy settings. Make sure they understand who can/cannot see their posts. If they aren’t sure either, learn it together! Remind them this isn’t about messing up their social lives; it’s about protecting them against the risks of online sharing. Speaking of the risks…
- Cover both benefits and risks – While this conversation will likely be met with an eye roll and an Ugh, everyone already knows that, Mom/Dad!, it is important to make these dangers and advantages clear. Going through risk factors shows that social activity can have consequences, and covering benefits reminds that, when done correctly, social media can positively impact their lives. It should be handled with caution, but without fear.
- Monitor posted and followed content – Learn your child(ren)’s social media name/handle and monitor it as best you can. Their privacy settings will determine what you’re able to see, and this is often true whether you’re “friends” with them or not. This re-emphasizes the importance of creating dialogue around what should and shouldn’t be posted. You should cover this monitoring when you set expectations. Remember, this isn’t about spying on your child, it’s about ensuring online safety.
- Stop comparing! – If your sentence about social media starts with “Back in my day” or “When I was your age,” you’re probably better off not saying it. Children will never fully understand what it was like back in your day – most of them have never lived in a world without the internet, and asking them to factor in those experiences is about as productive as banging your head against the wall. This is the world they live in. Rather than asking them to pretend things are different, focus on preparing them for what they will inevitably face in the years to come.
- Keep the conversation alive (through listening) – Don’t let an introductory social media conversation be your first and last. Show that you’re in it for the long haul; bring up the topic again, and hear out what they have to say. Considering they are (most likely) the social media experts, most of the conversation should be you asking questions and listening to the answers! This creates a space where your child(ren) can feel safe approaching you with potential social media concerns, and keeps you in the know.
- Ask for help – This list was hard to write because social media is so situational. There will never be one all-encompassing booklet/guide/blog post/course because social media is constantly adapting to its users. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You can always comment below on this blog post to have your specific questions answered. Also, most social sites have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. No one is expected to understand everything about social media – asking for help means you care enough to learn more!
Wediko isn’t interested in celebrity gossip, but we are very interested in helping make sure vulnerable youth aren’t trending for something they intended to keep private. The best way to encourage safe social media usage is to increase dialogue and awareness; learn, ask questions, and listen to the youth! Knowledge is power, and since social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s time to power up.