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Children cyber-bullying Social Media

Shepherding a Child’s Heart in a Social Media World

When it comes to social media, protecting your kids can be a daunting task.

While you want your kids to be able to communicate and have access to a wealth of information through social media, you probably also want to protect them from the downsides of social media—cyber bullying, access to inappropriate content, and vulnerability to criminal activity.

And even if you think you’re pretty good at keeping tabs on your children’s online activity, according to Guard Child, 67% of teens know how to hide their online activity from their parents. I know, it’s pretty scary, right?

So, what can you do to ensure that your children aren’t hiding what they do online and potentially putting themselves at risk?

Here are some useful tips that I use with my daughters.

Set Age and Time Limits

No child needs to be on social media all the time—that’s just asking for trouble.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 18 months shouldn’t use media of any kind—with the exception of video chatting platforms such as Skype or FaceTime to connect with grandparents, of course!

Some social networking sites even have stipulated age limits. For example, did you know that anyone under the age of 13 isn’t allowed to have a Facebook account? Do your homework to find out which sites are age appropriate for your kids and keep them off the ones that aren’t intended for their age group.

Take it a step further and set time limits for their online activity. Have you ever thought, “I’ll just catch up on Facebook for 10 minutes,” and then found yourself online an hour later? With kids’ curiosity, it’s easy for them to get caught up checking things on the web. Setting time limits will reduce the risk of your children getting pulled into things they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

Supervise and Get Full Access

In this day and age, it’s not nosy to have access to your children’s social media accounts—it’s smart.

Ensure that you have the correct passwords for your children’s accounts. There are unique benefits to being able to view their accounts from their perspective, rather than just checking on their profile through your own account. By doing random check-ins you can find out who your children are following, what content they’re seeing on their personalized feeds, and who they’re communicating with privately.

You may be able to put a stop to cyber-bullying by checking for any mistreatment of or by your children. You can also keep your children from falling victim to social media predators who actively seek out young children.

As your kids get older and become more aware of online threats, you may not need to check their accounts as often. However, especially with young kids, frequent monitoring is a smart tactic to keep them safe.

Encourage Private Accounts

Your kids don’t need to share their information with the entire world. So, ensure that your children’s social media accounts are set to private, not public.

Do this by checking their privacy settings on individual social media platforms. This will hide your kid’s information from strangers on the internet, even pictures or posts that they’re tagged in by other people.

Privacy settings are not foolproof, however, so you may want to install filtering software on your web browser that will protect your children—and your device—from various invasive viruses and spyware.

Let Your Children Know What to Share

Children, in their naivety, usually see nothing wrong with sharing every detail of their lives—from what they’re wearing and eating to their location and activities at any given time.

However, sharing information such as your location or personal details online gives other people a lot of access to you. Depending on who sees this information, it can actually put your safety at risk—no matter your age. Even Kim Kardashian was a victim of criminals who targeted her using information from her Instagram account to determine her location and activities.

Make sure to monitor the pictures, posts, and location tags your children share to see if they’re appropriate and set clear rules about what information they can and cannot share online.

Keep the Conversation Going

Before establishing rules about social media for your kids, it’s important to have a frank conversation with them about the dangers of the online world and why you’re setting rules in the first place. An honest and open conversation will help them understand why you’re concerned and will better equip them to handle things without you.

Just as you would teach your kids about dangers in the real world, teach them about the dangers of social media.

Remember that the rules you establish should work for you and your family. Consider the age and maturity of your children—what you enforce with a 12-year-old will likely be very different from what you would with a 16-year-old. As they mature you may have to revisit and adjust the boundaries you’ve set for them.

No matter their age, it’s important to encourage your children to be open with you about what goes on with their social media, both the good and the bad. Honestly, it’s difficult to monitor every single thing they do online, so the more comfortable they feel being open with you, the more easily you can protect them from online dangers.

Kid's Electronics Social Media Summer

How to Keep Your Kids Off Social Media This Summer

Remember the good old days when summer meant running through the sprinklers, playing hopscotch, and riding your bicycle through the neighborhood? I certainly miss that!

These days, summertime for kids often means more time on their computer, phone, or tablet. Chances are high that your kids are probably on a device right now—and if you have teenagers, they’re probably on social media instead of spending time outdoors enjoying the warm weather.

Yes, social media has its benefits and it’s great for kids to be able to stay in touch with distant friends over the summer. But, you know what they say: too much of anything is not good—and that includes social media! Here are a few statistics to put things in perspective:

  • The Huffington Post reports that 71% of teens admit to using more than one social network, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Snapchat.
  • The same study found that 56% of teens say they are online several times a day.
  • Another Huffington Post article found that 32% of teens have experienced threatening advances from others when online.

These data are pretty concerning! Other negative effects of too much social media include less sleep, higher rates of cyber-bullying, obesity, disrespect, numbness to violence, and changes in brain structure—the statistics are plentiful.

With that in mind, what better time to start a social media detox than this summer? We mean going cold-turkey. No social media for your kids—or you (because you have to lead by example)—this summer.

Already imagining your kids having a panic attack or staging an outright rebellion? Don’t worry, I have some tips to help keep your kids off social media this summer while still keeping them occupied.

Talk to Them First

Before taking any drastic measures, it’s important to let your kids know why social media will be off the table this summer.

Educate them on the effects of social media and point out how they’re spending too much time on social networks. Highlight the benefits of a social media detox and let them know it’s not forever.

Let’s be real—they will probably resist. Explaining why you’re enforcing a ban on social media is a better route than simply leaving them in the dark, and it may help get them on board with the plan. Make it clear that it’s not up for discussion and there will be no compromises.

Get Rid of Temptation 

Now comes the hard part—enforcement.

Simply uninstalling social media apps will not be effective if you want to stop all social media contact. Try switching out your kids’ smartphones for basic ones so that you can still keep in touch this summer while still limiting their access to the internet.

Put away your other household devices like tablets, desktops, or laptops, and stick to one communal computer in a busy location like the kitchen or living room so that everyone’s activity can be monitored.

Swap Outside Time for Social Media Time

That said, it may be nearly impossible to actually enforce a ban on social media, especially for older, technologically-savvy children.

In that case, give your kids an opportunity to have limited, semi-monitored time on social media a couple days a week. That way they can still check in with their friends, and they’ll be more willing to stick to the social media ban on other days.

For example, institute a swapping system where 2 hours spent doing outdoor activities earns 30 minutes of social media time. You could even make coupons to keep track of the system.

In time, your kids will (hopefully) stop missing social media and will choose to spend more time outdoors doing fun summer activities.

Institute Family Activities

Getting the kids off social media is a big step, but the next is spending more time with them as a family. Instead of sending the kids outdoors by themselves, get yourself and the whole family outside and moving!

Hiking, cycling, camping, fishing, or simply going for a swim are examples of fun activities for the whole family. This is a great opportunity to talk and bond with your kids while they’re not distracted and staring at their phones.

But, make it a rule that no social media is allowed by anyone—even parents—while spending time with the family.

Keeping Your Kids Off Social Media: Lead by Example

Let’s face it, we’re often just as bad about social media as parents—if not worse—than our kids.

Particularly as working moms, it’s easy to become slaves to our devices. Whether we’re checking social networks or work emails, we can set bad examples by over-using our electronics.

To help keep your kids off social media, set a good example by not being so tied to your phone. Don’t distract your kids with the iPad all the time—although I admit it can be a lifesaver at times—and spend more time engaging in outdoor activities with your family this summer.

Not only will your kids benefit, but so will you!