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Rhee Helliwell | Aug 13, 2017

Teaching kids to be smart about using social media

Categories: Summer, Teens, Education, Children, Health, Tips, News

For the majority of kids and teenagers, social media is a central part of their everyday lives. Even though there are plenty of good things about social media, there are also many dangers that you want your kids to avoid. With 90% of teens using social platforms daily, it’s important for parents to teach children how to use social media the smart way.

Why is social media good?

Social media can be used in lots of positive ways. Not only can the platforms help kids stay connected with their friends and family, it can also encourage creativity through sharing ideas, music and photographs. It also means they have opportunities to meet and interact with peers that may share similar interests or perhaps they want to get involved in a social media campaign for a charity.

The dangers of social media

On the flipside, social media can be a hub for cyber bullying, personal information being exposed, kids unknowingly talking to strangers or being exposed to age inappropriate content. Here’s just a few statistics that really bring to light some of these dangers.

  • 71% of teens post their school, town and where they live online
  • 95% of teen social media users who have witnessed cruel behavior on social media sites
  • 17% of teens say they've been contacted online by someone that made them feel scared or uncomfortable

For more details on these statistics look here.

Other dangers include teens becoming obsessed with social media in a negative way.  Social platforms often include ‘edited’ selfies and posts showcasing the best parts of a person’s life, which sets unrealistic expectations. In some cases, teens can get caught up in this ‘online reality’ and will compare themselves and their own lives to a peer or celebrity. This can result in them feeling as though they don’t measure up and in extreme cases can cause depression, anxiety or eating disorders.

How parents can teach kids to be smart

It’s important for you to discuss social media with your teens, teaching them how to stay safe, smart and reminding them about life offline. Here’s some points we advise covering.

Don’t accept friend requests from strangers- This one may be obvious, but make the number one rule to never be friends with anyone they don’t know. Simple. 

Privacy Settings- If there are privacy settings on a social platform, encourage your kids to use them. They are there for a reason!

Don’t believe everything online- It’s so easy for teens to forget about the real world when using social media, so it’s vital you remind them that everything they see online isn’t necessarily real or the whole story. Pictures can be edited, people aren’t always truthful and the majority of social media users only post the ‘best’ parts of their lives.

Limit social media time- Encourage your kids to spend a limited time on social media per day. We understand they want to socialise with friends, but it’s important they take part in activities away from the screen. Get them to read a book, go out and meet with their friends face-to-face or help you with cooking dinner. We guarantee it will do them the world of good!

Be Friendly- Mean behaviour is unacceptable in the virtual world, just as it is in the real world. Make it clear to your kids that they should treat others online as they would like to be treated. Being respectful and friendly doesn’t cost a thing! It’s also crucial to remind them to always communicate with you if they feel as though they’re being bullied or are receiving unkind messages. This way action can be taken before it gets out of hand.

Think before they send- Explain to your kids that most of what they post online can be seen by complete strangers. Ask them to be smart and think carefully before they hit enter. Specifically, it’s always a good idea for them to avoid posting locations of events or parties, phone numbers or any personal information.

Keep an eye! It’s a good idea for parents to keep an eye on their kids Facebook profiles or Instagram pages but from a distance. If you start being too nosey, they may feel as though you are invading their privacy, which can cause trust issues or mean they block you out completely which no parent wants.