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Social media can be a force for good or bad, depending on how you view it and how you interact with it. Children are often exposed to it through their phones from a young age – it’s hard to get away from it – but teaching them the foundations of healthy social media use will safeguard them against the inherent risks it presents. To help you, here are some tips on teaching your child to use social media in a responsible manner from an independent school in New York.
Explore the risks together
If you feel able to discuss it with your child, talk to them about the dangers that lurk on social media platforms.
Cover topics such as theft and misuse of personal information, privacy and oversharing, cyberbullying, offensive content and the potential mental health effects of social media usage (such as feeling inadequate about our own lives through looking at all the fun others are seemingly having).
You could also use books or TV programmes to support your discussions – sometimes kids learn better through this kind of medium.
Keep safety settings updated
Check that all the available safety settings are on for all your child’s social media accounts. Make sure their personal information is only viewable by close friends and that inappropriate content is blocked so they can’t view it.
There should be a variety of settings you can control to ensure the risks are minimised. It’s best to do this with your child so they learn about the potential dangers of social media in the process.
It will also seem more like a two-way decision rather than something which is being forced on them.
Set sensible limits and boundaries
Depending on your child’s age, you might want to set some acceptable use limits; for example, you might stipulate that they can only use social media downstairs when you’re present so you can keep an eye on what’s going on, or allow only one hour of use per day to prevent them getting too reliant on it for friendships and communicating.
Children often find it easier to chat with others online than in person, particularly if they’re socially anxious, so it’s important they’re still encouraged to socialise with friends in real life away from the screens.
Social media has opened up a new world for all of us, and it can be a great way to learn new things and communicate with others we wouldn’t normally be able to reach; however, it can detrimentally affect children’s mental health if usage isn’t contained, which is why it’s vital we as parents teach our kids how to use it responsibly.
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