The swift rise of the digital age has brought fundamental changes to the way we live our everyday lives, with no new development altering our social lives more than the massive social media platforms we find ourselves browsing every day. Just because we’re so comfortable checking out one another’s Facebook accounts or YouTube channels doesn’t mean our children will be so eager to do so, however, and many parents are beginning to question whether they should put their children on social media at all.
These are some of the ways you can determine if your child is ready for a social media presence, and the mistakes you should avoid if you want to start them off on the right foot when it comes to browsing the web.
Knowing when you’re in control
There can be absolutely no doubt about it that parents of young children are in total control of their child’s social media presence; you have a right, and indeed a responsibility, to guarantee that your child’s future isn’t being harmed by a poor digital presence. Just because you can determine when your younger children can and can’t use the internet doesn’t mean you’ll always have control, however; it’s important to realize from the get-go that, within special boundaries, it’s essential to give your older children on the brink of moving out some control over their own online destiny.
For new parents of younger children, however, control is necessary and encouraged. You may not want your child to be on social media at all, for instance, but even then you’d have to be directly involved to guarantee it wasn’t actually happening. Just be sure to make it a cooperative process from the start, rather than an authoritative one that sees you dictating commands to your kids, and you’ll likely win their compliance early on.
If you want to be a good parent as it pertains to social media, you’ll need to stay up to date. Check out some of the sites young web-browsers are visiting more than others, to start. For instance, many parents mistakenly believe Facebook is still the king of social media, and while it’s still the biggest website, young users are fleeing from Facebook in droves, preferring newer platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the most popular social media channels of today, as some are acceptable for kids while others aren’t. YouTube is virtually universally enjoyed by teens and kids, for instance, while more adult platforms liked LinkedIn or even Facebook may best be saved for when they’re older. This may seem obvious, but if you’re not aware of the differences between these platforms, their differing data policies, and how they rapidly shift, you may be caught off-guard by some of the sites you’re letting your children browse.
It’s all about data
One of the most important jobs of a parent when it comes to their kids and social media is understanding good data practices. Your kids are too young or too uncaring, perhaps both, to put much though into data sharing practices. This is an important part of the online world, however, and you need to bring it up with them early on and help them along the way when it comes to making their first few accounts. So, how can you tell a good social media channel from a bad one when it comes to data?
First things first, understand that all social media sites exist for a reason – to collect and sell your data. Special services that let you buy Youtube subscribers and Facebook likes are designed to capture your information. Facebook may be taking heat over its Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it’s a simple matter of fact that other companies are collecting and selling your anonymized information too – it’s just how the market does business, and is the sole reason these sites exist in the first place. Have this talk with your kids early on, especially as it pertains to what they post and how they might be getting tracked online.
Read up on some expert advice pertaining to safe social networking, and your kids will soon be making connections and enjoying their time online in safety in no time. The wild world of the internet is still developing, and we’ll never have truly up to date information on rapidly changing social media ecosystems, but if you keep constantly brushing up, you’ll stay ahead of the curve and will equip yourself with the best-known practices that keep you safe. Finally, don’t be afraid to let go – sometimes, your kids need privacy. As your kids get progressively older, give them more freedom (and the accompanying responsibilities) about how they operate online while still retaining some parental oversight. A little bit of snooping now and then never hurts, but building a trusting relationship and telling your kids what they need to know early on is the safest way to ensure their social media success.