Tips for Teaching Your Child Good Social Media Manners
When today’s preteens were born, adults were just starting to figure out how social media worked. Now that kids of all ages are eager to join the world of social media, it’s only natural for parents to have doubts about letting their children dive in. Some common questions parents have include:
- How do I tell if my child is ready to use social media?
- When should I start teaching my child about it?
- How do I keep my child safe on social networks?
- Which social networks are safe for kids?
- Will joining social networks just encourage my child to spend more time online?
When parents face these questions, the best approach is to treat social networks like any other new environment your child explores. You supervise your child when he or she plays outside, and you should also supervise him or her on social networks.
Supervision and guidance are crucial to the process of teaching young children how to use social media. Children are less likely to grasp the importance of social media etiquette and safety when they’re left to figure it out on their own. So, before you allow your child to explore social networks independently, review these four key concepts together.
Caution. Teaching kids to protect their personal information and be cautious around strangers is essential for keeping them safe on social networks.
Permanence. Children need to learn early on that social media posts are permanent, so it’s important to think twice before taking action.
Reputation. Older children must be careful about what they reveal on social media. Future employers or college admissions representatives can see any information not protected by strict privacy settings.
Social Media Skill-Building Activities
Start a discussion about social media etiquette with your child using the social media activities below. These activities challenge children to think critically about social media.
- Start with online games (ages 5–7). Children in this age group are honing their communication and computer skills. They should learn that being polite to others and being cautious around strangers applies to the virtual world as well as the real world. Before they learn about social media, they can get experience with the technology by playing online games and using apps for kids.
- Create a social media rulebook (ages 8–12). Children ages 8–12 are old enough to explore safe social networks for kids. These networks give kids experience interacting with peers online before they try more sophisticated social networks. To reinforce the rules of social media at this stage, ask your child to develop his or her own social media rulebook. When the rulebook is complete, go over it together and discuss the things your child could add or change.
- Catch social media rule breakers (ages 8–12). In this activity, your child searches the news for examples of social media mistakes. For each example, he or she should write a couple of sentences explaining which rule was broken and how the mistake could have been avoided.
- Do something nice every day (ages 8–12). Kids start by making a list of positive things to do for others on social media networks. The goal is to do something nice every day for a week. At the end of the week, ask your child how other people were affected by his or her acts of kindness.
- Weigh the pros and cons of social media (ages 13+). Once your child has experience with social media, he or she may try other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Children have to be particularly careful about how they present themselves on their online profiles. For safety reasons, parents may choose to have their children not use their full names. To gauge how well your child understands social media, ask him or her to make a list of social media benefits and drawbacks.
- Professional profile check (ages 13+). Ask your child to make a list of things he or she would want to share with potential employers. Next, ask your child to review his or her social media profiles to see if they support his or her professional image. What would an employer be able to see? What things should be changed?
Social media manners are too important for children and parents to gloss over. Remember, your child needs guidance and supervision to develop good social media habits.
What social media topics have you discussed with your child? Share the lessons you’ve learned in the comments.