If you’ve been reading me for any length of time you know exactly how I feel about social media. You’re also aware of my own personal struggles of being able to protect myself while having to be on social media as part of being a public person with ambitions of becoming a published author. Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, since it isn’t we, as parents need to safeguard our children against it. We must teach them how to use it responsibly, and we need to protect them from the dark side of the web that nobody, never mind minors should ever come in contact with.
How do we do this? Well we do it the same way as every other element of parenting them. By having an open and honest relationship with them, by engaging them in a healthy dialogue about how we’re not out there trying to control their experiences, or make them less cool than their friends, but, as adults, the adults who are responsible for them and their safety we must be a part of their online experience. That our role is to ensure that they’re not being exposed to sites set up by predators. Which happens all to often as I’ve learned from my work with Boost for Kids.
No teenager is going to want you having access to their online accounts, I totally get that, but, if you teach them from a young age the very real dangers of it, and that you’re on their side to protect them, chances are they’ll see reason. You must also remind them that anything they post on social media is out there forever and ever, and that they need to think long term about how they use their social media. There needs to be an understanding between you and your kid(s) that what you’re doing everything you can to safeguard them while they’re on social media. If you’re the type of parent that has no issue with your younger than thirteen year old kid being on social media then I say the only way to do that is by sharing their accounts. You should absolutely have access to their Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. This, in my opinion is the only way that a kid under the age of thirteen should be allowed to on these adult platforms. Hell, I would probably keep this rule until they’re sixteen. I watched first hand our youngest be bullied on these platforms, and I can assure you watching your child suffer in the privacy of their sanctuary, their homes, is no fun. Back in the day being bullied ended when you left the school yard, now, it has the ability to go on and on long after the front door of your home has closed behind them. Besides, the bottom line is this: if your kid isn’t up to no good, then they really won’t have an issue with you having access to their accounts now will they? Similarly they won’t mind friending you on these platforms either.
At the end of the day kids need to know that we’re involved in their social media lives because we love them, not because we don’t trust them. We want to make sure that they’re being smart, and cautious when hanging out on the world wide web. And once online etiquette is deeply entrenched into the fiber of their beings, when they fully understand that future employers will be able to find that tweet full of cussing, or that bathroom selfie of them in their bra, they will grasp the long term impact that posting for the most likes in the moment will have on their future lives. It is our job to remind them that what they see on social media isn’t real; but in order to convey that to them, we must first believe it ourselves.