As your kids get older and hear their friends talk about their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds, it’s natural that they want to be on Facebook and Twitter, too. It’s inevitable. The best thing to do is to introduce them to social media yourself, rather than have them sneak around and create an account without your permission.
So what do you tell them about social media use? Where do you draw the line, and when do you trust them with online privacy?
Do: Know the password.
It’s okay to know your child’s Facebook password so that you can check their social profile, but it’s best to not invade their privacy too much.
Only use your child’s password in important situations – if you think they’re communicating with someone they don’t know, or could be putting themselves in an overly vulnerable situation.
But, don’t go overboard and read through all their private messages. You have to have some respect if you want your kids to respect you in turn.
Do: Set up a security firewall.
By installing a firewall on your child’s computer, you’ve put up an easy defense to block potential viruses. Kids that are new on the Internet will be likely to click on random ads and links, which can have viruses.
Do: Watch your child’s posts silently without commenting on them.
Make sure that they are posting appropriate content on their page (and on friends’ pages). If you’re concerned about out-of-the-house activity, keep tabs on pictures your child posts. You can make sure they’re at a location you know and check to see if there are any items around (beer bottles etc) that shouldn’t be.
Of course, some kids will block their parents from seeing a post that may get them into trouble. If you feel your child is hiding something, try asking a mutual friend to alert you to any suspect activity.
Do: Talk to your child about the “rules” of posting on social media.
This could include things like not using profanity, staying off of bad websites, not clicking links etc. This will help establish that your child has some limits, and will need to follow them in order to keep their social media account.
Do: Monitor your child’s time on social media if it becomes excessive.
Even many adults experience addiction to social media, and you don’t want this to happen to your child. It often causes depression because they analyze and compare their life to the lives of others online.
Don’t: Post or tag your child in something they might find embarrassing.
It’s okay to be friends with your child on Facebook, but you should never post about them personally unless it’s to celebrate some major event or something that involves the whole family. Respect their boundaries so that you don’t embarrass them. This is hard for a lot of parents that want to get involved, but kids get easily embarrassed by their parents and may even get teased at school.
Don’t: Ask your child about their posts unless it’s something important.
You don’t want them to get the feeling that you read everything they write, otherwise they will start blocking you from seeing posts or will find other ways around making it so you won’t see their posts. It also makes them feel like their privacy has been invaded, even though it’s posted online and that’s silly.
Don’t: Confront your child or every post or update.
If your child gets a new relationship status and hasn’t told you, let them bring it up. Act as if you don’t know until they’re ready to tell you. This is another one of those privacy things that go over much better for you and your child when it’s not mentioned due to social media.
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger, business marketing student and advocate for equal access broadband initiatives. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.