Think your child is only on Facebook and is probably aware of the dangers? Think again—and again, and again, and again.
Your tweens and teens are on many social media sites, and chances are it’s not even Facebook. Most parents know about Facebook; heck, most parents are on Facebook. What parents don’t know about are the countless other social media experiences their children have on a daily basis.
The myriad of bizarre names would overwhelm even diligent parents who closely monitor their children’s social media activities. Oovoo, Yik Yak, and Wanelo are just the tip of the iceberg. This proliferation of social media opportunities aimed at tweens and teens suggests that parents need to shift into a high gear and roll out a revised plan for protecting their children.
Know About It
Just when we think we understand what Tumblr and Pinterest do, new social media apps appear out of nowhere, and our children are using them before we can even look them up online. Parents need to constantly update their knowledge of the current popular social media sites.
Check news sites for stories about the latest trends and look into them yourself. Ask teachers and other parents what they know about the latest social media sites or what their children are always using. Look up the companies online and visit the website to learn about what the service does.
Ask About It
Once you’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular social media sites, ask your kids if they know about them and more importantly, use them. Given that most experts encourage parents to talk to their children about their online activities and dangers involved with technology, leverage your newfound knowledge about social media in their world to start another conversation with your kids.
Obviously, presenting your child with a list of sites to grill her with will produce the familiar eye-rolling, heavy sigh and utterance, “Oh, mom! Really?” Instead, try to bring up one or two conversationally and anchor it in your world: “My younger coworkers were debating about Vine and Yik Yak. What do you think?”
If the conversations with your children don’t reveal much about their social media activities and you’re worried, you might consider phone monitoring software. As a parent, your number one priority should be to protect your children online and monitoring software is an excellent way to do so. Given a teenager’s vulnerability and inexperience, stepping in as a parent is one of the most loving things you can do.
If you have reason to worry about the interactions your child is having online, and your relationship with your child is one of openness and honesty, they will likely understand that your use of a monitoring service is done out of love and care.
You can approach the endeavor with your children by suggesting that you are not questioning their judgment or actions. Instead, you want to prevent electronic predators from finding and contacting them. You can mention that the speed and wide distribution of pictures and messages makes immediate alerts about dangers an important tool to stopping these people.
Do you think your child may be having problems with social media use? Often, signs of trouble are similar to problems related to depression and substance abuse. These signs include:
• Becomes shy or withdrawn
• Displays increased irritability and anger
• Gets in trouble at school
• Stops eating
• Has trouble sleeping
If your child shows these or other signs of trouble, consult a health professional that can help develop a plan of action.
Social media is not a trend that will go away in a matter of years. Social media is an ever-expanding world that we all live in. Learning how to navigate this unknown landscape safely will require parents to model the behaviors and virtues they want their kids to have. Beyond that essential practice, parents can learn more about social media sites and apps and prevent dangerous interactions that might harm their children needlessly.