Parents of young children tend to have a lot on their minds. While social media may not be moms’ and dads’ foremost concern, it’s a topic that today’s parents must discuss with their children eventually. Social media is largely uncharted territory for parents. Many parents of young children did not grow up with social media. As a result, they might not know what constitutes appropriate usage, and how to convey that to kids growing up in a world where social media is so prevalent. Parents tasked with discussing social media with kids can consider the following tips.
• Recognize today’s kids are the most connected people in the world. UNICEF notes that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most connected people in the world. Seventy-one percent of people in that age group are online, while just 48 percent of the total population across the globe is online. Parents won’t be able to eliminate the internet or social media from their kids’ lives. So discussions about social media usage should be about responsible usage, which should include limits on how much time kids spend online each day.
• Don’t view social media as a villain. While social media gets its share of deserved and undeserved criticism, UNICEF, in its “The State of the World’s Children 2017” report, noted that digital technologies can serve as positive forces in the lives of young people. For example, digital technologies allow children to access information on issues affecting their communities. Some youngsters may use that access as inspiration to change their communities for the better.
In addition, social media allows young people with conditions such as cerebral palsy to interact with their peers in ways they might not have been able to interact in decades past. When discussing social media with their children, parents can emphasize these positive aspects while also noting the negatives associated with social media, using the combination of both as an example of why social media must be used in moderation.
• Address the elephant in the room. Everyone on the internet is not who they say they are, and parents must address this with their kids before youngsters open social media accounts. Point out to children that they should never “friend” anyone who they do not know. A 2015 report from Pew Research found that 41 percent of Facebook users are connected with people they have never met in person. While adults who connect with strangers may not be in danger, kids may not be mature or savvy enough to recognize cyber criminals or others looking to prey on their inexperience and trustfulness.
Explain this to children and use it to illustrate why mom and dad want to know who they’re speaking to online. Emphasize that your goal is to protect them, not invade their privacy. Social media can be a difficult topic for parents to discuss with their children.
Maintaining an open and honest dialogue that recognizes the pros and cons of social media can make such discussions more fruitful.