In this new age of technology, children are practically born reaching for the latest (or nearest) electronic devices.
Maybe you vowed that your child would never be tainted by exposure to a screen, or maybe it just wasn’t a big deal to you. Regardless of your initial opinion, your child was probably introduced to videochatting before the end of the first month. How could you resist the urge to show off your sweet baby? Then, over the next few months and years, the occasional “educational” game or television show crept in.
Now your not-so-little one wants a full-fledged online presence– a social media account. Is she really ready? Here are a few factors to consider.
Is she 13 years old?
Most social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest) require that their users be thirteen years of age or older. This is their way of complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which restricts companies from collecting personal information from children under the age of thirteen.
Can he recognize inappropriate content?
No matter the social media platform, having an online presence will mean that your child will encounter material that is not in line with his values or worldview. Is he aware enough to recognize profanity or suggestive material? Does he know what your family’s standards for media are?
Does she know what to do?
Once your child has recognized inappropriate content, does she know what the next steps are? Teach her your family’s “internet emergency escape plan.” It might involve immediately shutting down the internet browser/app, finding an adult, reporting the content to the Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram, or just moving away into safer waters.
Is he respectful of others’ feelings?
Social media bullying is a reality. If your child is cruel or insensitive to others in real life, he will continue that behavior online. Teach your children to stand up to online bullies and to treat everyone with respect.
Does she know how to protect herself from online bullies?
Make sure your child knows how to block others on social media and to report cyberbullying to the social media site. Teach her that she has the right to block anyone, at anytime, and for any reason.
If your child is cyberbullied, document the bullying. If severe, report it to the social media site, to the school, and to the police.
Can he discern between fact and fantasy?
Studies have indicated that people who spend more time on social media are more likely to be depressed. When you go on Facebook, it’s not hard to see why. The average newsfeed is full of others’ remarkable events: births, marriages, engagements, new jobs, vacations, etc. These shiny, perfect online lives of others can easily make your child feel that their life is ho-hum. Before your child joins social media, he needs to understand that things are not as they seem in another’s profile picture.
Joining social media is a big step with far reaching consequences. Before your child takes the plunge, make sure he or she is ready to make responsible choices.