Today, most teens and tweens use some form of social media and have an account on a social media platform. While it used to be just Facebook and Instagram, today there is Snapchat, Twitter and the latest fan favorite – Tik Tok. Social media does have benefits for young people in that it provides a medium for them to communicate, share their thoughts and ideas, stay connected with loved ones, be creative and gain access and exposure to a world of knowledge and information that can often be inspiring. But on the flip side, social media has time and again proved to be a perfect breeding ground for cyber-bullying, inappropriate language, the sharing of explicit pictures as well as the sharing of over-personal information.
These split-second impulsive decisions that adolescents are prone to making due to their stage of development can have detrimental effects that last a lifetime. The internet cannot be erased nor can bullying comments or inappropriate pictures. This is why it is incredibly important that parents stay actively involved and aware of what their kids are doing online. It is a delicate balance however between monitoring internet usage and snooping or spying on your child.
We have put together a few tips to help you navigate this and help your teenager stay safe while staying socially connected.
Educate yourself. You can’t do anything until you understand the power of the Internet and how much influence social media really has on society today, particularly on the life of your child. Take time to learn about the different media platforms your child uses so that you can speak about them with some knowledge and context. Then you can educate your family.
Establish clear expectations and limits. Create your vision for media usage and limits in your family together. You will not always be able to monitor your child’s use. Teens and children have access at school and in friends’ homes. This is why co-creating a contract of the rules and why they are needed will help your child respect them and uphold them on their own.
Be an involved resource. Talk with your children about what they do on the computer ask them to show you their favorite social media sites and what they like about them. Encourage your children to ask you if they have doubts about the appropriateness of a post or e-mail and stress that they CAN and SHOULD come to you if they encounter anything that feels inappropriate, hurtful or questionable online. On the flipside, teach them to:
- Be nice. Being unkind to someone is never okay and just because this is over the internet and not face to face, that does not make it right. Make it clear to your child that you expect him or her to treat others with respect inside your house, at school and online. Posting hurtful or embarrassing things is NOT OKAY in your family.
- What Would My Teacher Say? Rule:The What Would My Teacher Say Rule means that your kids should not be posting anything that they would not want their teacher to see. Teach them to ask themselves this question BEFORE they post – every time.
- Don’t “friend” strangers.The internet can be a dangerous place. Remind your children to never accept a friend request from a stranger or to “friend” someone they don’t know.
- Think twice before hitting “enter.”Remind teens to STOP and THINK! What is posted can be used against them even if it isn’t obvious. An example of this is if your child posts that he/she is going on vacation and then your house is robbed. Private information such as your address and phone number should also never be posted.
Monitor activity. Trust your children while maintaining cautiousness. Periodically check their Web browsing history and phone usage to help them avoid trouble.
Install filters. If your operating system does not have built-in controls, consider purchasing filtering software. Start with your Internet provider. Some of these programs log all Internet activity, including instant messaging. Also, use available pop-up blockers, firewalls, password protectors, and website blockers. See below for a list of resources.
Stay public. Encourage Internet usage in public areas of your home instead of having kids hidden away in their rooms online. Consider having the Internet only connected to 1 main computer in a public space in your home and position the screen so others in the room can see it. Doing so makes it easier to monitor your child’s activities on the computer.
- Internet Information •
Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices through age-based and educational ratings and reviews. The Parent Concerns and Parent Blogs help families navigate various problems of raising children in the digital age. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
- Internet Safety •
Cyber Patrol has four very brief and helpful videos about internet safety and ways to protect your children. http://www.cyberpatrol.com/safetyseries.asp
- Parental Controls •
Go to System Preferences on your own computer, or use your browser and search for these:
• Windows parental controls OR • Mac parental controls
Check also with your cell phone provider or video game makers.
- Filtering Software •
Contact us today if you would like to schedule a consultation!
Cope With School NYC is a child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy practice in Manhattan. We provide individual therapy, parent counseling, group therapy and social skills groups. Cope With School NYC helps students address challenges with school (or life factors that impact optimal school functioning), including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning differences, bullying, anxiety, depression, loss, social challenges, etc).