I'll be honest, I love social media. Whether it's keeping up with friends, finding inspiring articles, or scrolling through beautiful pictures, most of my times spent on social media sites makes my heart happy. And my kids notice. They ask to take a peek at what made me giggle and beg me to post pictures of them to see how many likes that picture will fetch. But when they started asking for accounts of their own, I almost fell off of my chair. I hadn't taken time to consider any ideas to give a child a social media presence, and defaulted to the you're too young rule.
It's not that I don't want my kids to be active in social media with their friends, it's that I hadn't thought through exactly what that situation would look like. I knew I would throw down some basic rules, but beyond me being one of their followers and making sure we had secure privacy settings, I wasn't sure what else I needed to include in my expecations. It would be nice to find a balance between my children being able to enjoy themselves online and my need to feel like they are being smart and protected.
These 11 fun and safe ideas to give your child a social media presence cover the bases of safety while suggesting a few ideas for kids to engage in social media with alternatives to their own account. Having a plan and open conversation with your kids is the perfect place to start before you ever create a profile.
1. Use Privacy Settings
If you don't choose privacy setting for your child's account, all content will be public and anyone can see what your child is posting. As Safety Net Kids pointed out on their website, you should always max out the privacy settings for kids on social media accounts.
2. Keep Communication Open
Even though you may be keeping a close eye on your child's social media accounts, you might not catch everything. As the FBI Kids Safety website suggested, encourage kids to tell you if anything online makes them uncomfortable.
3. Set Boundaries
The National Children's Advocacy Center recommended reviewing their rules of online behavior for children before setting up social media accounts for your kids. This comprehensive guide covers everything from being honest with your parents about your online activity to understanding the dangers of careless behavior on social media.
4. Enforce Consequences
Once the boundaries have been set, don't back down when one is violated. Enforcing the consequences of breaking online rules will remind your child that this is not something you take lightly. Even if it means they loose their phone for a week, a consequence will make them consider disrespecting the boundaries in the future.
5. Have Access To The Inbox
If your child is on a site such as Facebook or Twitter, which has a private inbox, let your child know that you will be checking in to monitor for the inbox for messages from people they do not know.
6. Explain The Dangers
Children may not understand why you are so hesitant to hand over the reigns of free internet use. Before creating any accounts for your child, make sure to explain potential online dangers such as communicating with people they don't know and sharing personal information.
7. Be A Follower
Make a deal with your kids, that if they want to be on social media, you will need to be one of their followers on all chosen outlets. This way they know you are seeing every post, comment, and picture they share, which may help them to think twice about anything that could potentially get them in trouble.
8. Follow The Rules
Although not everyone abides by the regulations, sites such as Facebook, require users to be 13 or older. But as Parenting pointed out, not everyone is honest about their age when creating an account. Teach your children to respect the limits put in place by social media sites and wait until they are old enough to sign-up on certain platforms.
9. Get An Online Nanny
Parents can purchase software to help monitor their children online. Products such as Net Nanny help to protect kids from inappropriate content and interactions while online. To keep a close eye on their phone activity, try My Mobile Watchdog to stay up to date on your child's social media presence.
10. Use Family Account
If you're not quite ready to let your child have their own social media accounts, open a family account and give your child access to login. This is a good way to ease into the world of online interacting and still put limits on your child's exposure.
11. Make Them Go By An Alias
For parents who trust their kids to be responsible online, but still don't feel ready to give them a social media presence, allow your child to create an account using an alias. A childhood nickname or their initials are good choices for "naming" their account.