Allowing Access: Your child’s social media presence

Allowing Access: Your child’s social media presence

When is the “right” time to allow your child to enter the world of social media?

Nadia begs her father, Jon, to let her set up a social media account, but Jon is hesitant. Is Nadia ready for the responsibility of reading and posting online?  How can Jon be sure that Nadia will keep herself safe on the Internet? When is the right time, and what are the right circumstances, to say yes to social media? Watch as Jon and Nadia find some common ground.

In this scenario, you will learn about:

  • Setting rules for internet and social media use
  • Communicating with your child about online privileges
  • Teaching your child digital citizenship

In this scenario, Jon was hesitant to give his daughter permission to use social media because he was worried about the consequences of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is associated with many of the same negative effects as school bullying, including poor self-esteem, substance use, lowered school attendance and grades, and mental health problems. Yet unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can be perpetrated anonymously — and can occur wherever and whenever young people have access to the internet. Hurtful messages and images can be spread to hundreds of people within seconds, and are nearly impossible to erase permanently.

Jon insisted that for Nadia to be active online, she must first show that she could be a good digital citizen. Digital citizenship is a set of standards for appropriate, responsible online behavior that can serve as guidelines for young people, and for the adults who are helping them to stay safe. For more information on digital citizenship and its role in preventing cyberbullying, check out the Digital Citizenship resource.

Digital footprint refers to the electronic trail left behind by any interactions a person has online. This includes messages that your child sends, comments s/he posts, information s/he provides in online profiles, images s/he shares with others, or images of your child shared by others. Once they are part of a digital footprint, these comments and images are permanent, even if you make efforts to delete them.

Monitor your child’s digital media use

Digital media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect with each other across great distances. But as with any powerful tool, you are responsible for teaching your child how to use it safely.

Set your own rules for monitoring. Decide what sites you feel comfortable with and how involved you need to be in monitoring. You may want to use parental control tools that allow you to watch your child’s web activity. It’s important to let your child know that you will be monitoring their online activity to protect them—make sure you have their usernames and passwords. To respect your child’s privacy, don’t read any more than is necessary to ensure that your child is acting safely and appropriately online.

Many families also establish limits on digital media use. Some rules you might use: keep electronic devices in open areas where it is easy for parents to monitor; no cell phone use during family meals; no electronic devices in your child’s room at night. If you want to try making a written contract, check out the examples provided on this site.

Make Use of Privacy Settings

Very little that is shared on digital media is truly private. Help children learn how to protect themselves by reviewing the privacy settings on their social media sites with them. Adjust the settings to share information only with people your child knows. Check the settings often, as the options can change when sites update their policies.

To bolster these privacy protections, make sure your child knows never to share full names, addresses, or phone numbers online. Children’s passwords should be shared only with their parents.