When I was 13, I was deemed responsible enough to have a key to our house and let myself in after school while my parents were at work. I had one hour before my mum would come home and in this time I formed a small habit (some would say early social tech addiction) of logging on to MSN messenger, willing the dialup not to lose connection midway, and chatting with friends (and strangers) I had just said goodbye to at the school gate.
I’m approaching my 40s, but even now I feel the twinge of knowing I should not have been web surfing during peak times when I would (and was) caught out by a high phone bill (very high!).
Little did I know that I would worry about the social media and online habits of my kids, who are 8 and 5, and will not be allowed to own their own phones until they are 18. Yes, I know, completely unrealistic since they each have their own tablets (under the watchful eye of parental control) and the eldest is already wearing me down with the constant barraging of who in her class has a phone.
So, while I think of my 13-year-old self who forbade my parents and was trolled before I knew what trolling was, and my tech-savvy kids who are on target to have a mobile by secondary school, what can we do to teach our kids to be smart on social media?
As our kids begin to use apps, their knowledge is limited, and their understanding of what can happen, what they may see, and who they may talk to, will be severely lacking. Social media poses many dangers and our kids will be exposed to new platforms before we can catch up. Be honest, open, considerate, and non-judgemental in how you talk to your kids about social media. Encourage them to be comfortable in being open and honest with you about what their social media experience is like. Keep these conversations consistent so that they are natural and unintrusive.
Promote Positive Use
Social media has its benefits as a creative force and a powerful source of connection for our kids in the modern world. Encourage them to use social media in a positive way by helping them connect their emotions and how they feel when scrolling through certain feeds. Keep them aware of how you expect them to behave online, and how they should be treated too.
Remember social media moves at a very fast pace. We are no longing dialing up to MSN messenger on the family computer, but rather connecting in a private way. While the parameters of technology change, how we use it should not. Continue to reinforce open conversations about proper and expected usage. Soon enough these conversations should become natural and open with positive reinforcement.