Written by JT Ripton
Children are much more proficient at computers, social media, and general technology than their parents were at the same age, which is great for learning skills, exploring new topics, and keeping up with this ever-evolving world.
However, because they have more access to the Internet through computers, phones, and tablets, they are all too often at risk.
At best, they spend too much time browsing the web and chatting with friends; at worst, they can come in contact with some nasty characters, which is why parental control is essential.
Bad Manners, No Access
Cyberbullying is a real problem. It has led to far too many tragedies, so parents should do everything they can to prevent it and ward against it. One way to do that is to treat time on social media as a privilege—because it is. If your child behaves badly on social media and you hear about or see it, hold him or her accountable for it. No matter what your child's age, give him or her a Wi-Fi time-out. Keep them away from the computer, the smartphone, and the tablet for a set time.
Keep Strict Time Limits
It's important to create time limits. The Internet has always been pretty addictive, going back to the days of AOL chat rooms and beyond. With social media, even adults sometimes get sucked into Facebook or Pinterest for long periods of time.
Your kids can't afford to do that, though. They have homework, extracurricular activities, friendships, and little lives to nurture. Too much time online is unhealthy and distracting. Give your kids time limits that won't interfere with other, more important activities. You can use timers or even install apps that will close social media apps after a specified period.
Online Stranger Danger
One hard, fast rule is to never let your children follow, fan, or befriend strangers online. They likewise shouldn't accept any requests from people they don't know. It's no secret that unsavory things happen online, especially through social media. People are so easily accessible, and with texting so popular, social media messaging isn't the only danger.
Certain types of people prey on children, especially on the Internet. That's scary and blunt, but true. Even if your kids know not to meet anyone they only know from social media, there are still dangers. Criminal types target children to steal their identities and take advantage of theirclean credit histories. Get yourself informed about identity theft at www.identitytheftprotection.org to keep yourself and your children out of identity thieving hands.
Until you're sure your child has good social media habits, you need to monitor his or her usage. It's up to you to make sure there are no strangers in the picture that your child isn't spending more time on Tumblr than on homework, and that he or she is respectful online. The best way to do that is to keep computers, tablets, and cell phones in central spots, wherever the family spends the most time together.
Many parents do want their children to have cell phones for emergencies. That's completely understandable, and keeping an eye on your child's social media activity doesn't prevent him or her from having one. You have several options here:
- Placing parental controls or security passwords on a phone that allows texting, browsing, and apps, at least until the child is home
- Getting rid of texting and browsing capabilities
- Or purchasing your child a standard cell phone that doesn't text or use Wi-Fi
New Friend Requests
To better keep up with your child's activity, you should become friends on social media. Follow your child on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and any other popular sites. Set another rule that disallows private or hidden posts. This way, you can see how your child behaves, keep an eye on his or her friends, and generally watch your child's usage. You can lurk in the background, so to speak, so as not to embarrass your child, but full disclosure is important.
As your child ages, you can relax or change certain social media rules; the good habits will stick. Do you allow your children to have social media profiles?
JT is a parent of 2 amazing kids and a free lance writer. JT loves to write to inform and intrigue those who are also trying to raise their kids correctly in this ever more connected world, you can follow JT on twitter @JTRipton