Summer is in full swing and you might have a young child who’s eager to go spend time at the neighborhood pool. If you were going to teach your two-year-old how to swim, think of how involved you’d probably be. You’d hold your toddler as you got in the water together and let them get used to their surroundings. Maybe after a few minutes you’d set them down on the side and then have them jump into your arms. At some point, you’d have them practice kicking their legs. You’re probably not jumping out and leaving them there to figure things out on their own.
As a parent, you should exercise this same level of care and involvement when it comes to letting your kids use social media. Sometimes kids who are too young to fully understand social media are thrown into the deep end, and they often end up sinking. Just as you wouldn’t leave your child alone in a swimming pool, you shouldn’t leave your child alone in the vast abyss of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Online safety expert Scott Steinberg says, “You absolutely have to be as involved in your child’s digital and online life as you would be in real world activities and interactions.”
Kids have ready access to the internet. In a recent Pew study, 89% of 13- to 17-year-olds surveyed said that they were online either “almost constantly” or “several times a day.” Among American teens, 95% have access to a smartphone. As a parent, you can’t keep your kids away from social media and the internet, but you can do some things to ensure that your kids are safe and healthy in their online interactions. Here are five tips to help.
Consider the right age for your child to get social media.
Explain the consequences of social media actions.
Discuss hard topics.
Keep checking in.
Acknowledge the good that can come from social media.
One teen said that “social media can make people my age feel less lonely.” There are definitely risks associated with social media, especially when it comes to sexual abuse. But with some guidance from you, social media can develop into an easy and accessible communication tool that allows your child to connect with peers and have fulfilling social interactions.
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