Social media has become a prolific tool in the lives of today’s teens. They use the sites to connect with friends, family and even with people they don’t know but with whom they feel they share similar interests and beliefs. Since it is likely your teenager is spending at least a portion of his or her day utilizing social media sites to connect with others, it’s important you set up a few ground rules. The following seven rules will help you keep social media use in check for your teen.
- Keep devices for social media access out of the bedroom. Children who get in trouble online often do so when their means of access – phone, iPad, computer – are located in the bedroom. To avoid this, only allow your teen to access social media outside of the bedroom.
- Follow set time limits for social media usage. One reason you should set time limits, says Madeline Levine, is that when teens spend too much time online they are not able to spend time doing things like building relationships and collaborating with other people. An hour on social media sites may not be bad at the end of the day. However, spending all afternoon chatting with friends online rather than going outside and spending actual time with friends can be.
- Allow mom and dad to friend and follow. Before permitting your child to access social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Yalda T. Uhls suggests setting up the rule that you are to be their friend on these sites. This way you can monitor the content they are putting out to the world.
- Give parents their passwords to devices and social media sites. Tina Meier notes the only way to know for sure what your children are doing online is to have access to their accounts. You can tell your children that while you aren’t going to check every day, you will monitor usage.
- Post appropriate content and images only. Kids don’t understand that what goes out onto the Internet is often there to stay. Even social media sites like SnapChat, which was originally created to allow users to send a quick impermanent photo or message to friends, can be made permanent by taking a screenshot, says Uhls. You need to tell your teen that whatever is posted to social media – pictures, short blurbs of how they feel, words about others – should be posted with the idea that the information or images will be available to anyone, anywhere and at any time – because, in all likelihood, they are.
- Prepare for consequences when these rules are broken. If your child gets caught online in the bedroom or is found to have sent something inappropriate to friends via social media, consequences should be in place and followed. This may mean losing the device used to access social media for a set period of time or losing access to the social media account altogether.
- Keep private information private. The advent of social media has made ‘meeting’ strangers so easy that teenagers, and people of all ages, often forget these are really strangers they are talking to. It’s imperative parents teach teens to utilize social media safely. This means never giving out private information if a stranger could obtain that information. And if a stranger ‘friends’ your teen on Facebook, Theresa M. recommends asking your teen to unfriend this person in case his or her intentions are not good.