A recent threat at my daughter’s school via social media provided a great reminder about the need for diligent parents in this increasingly connected world. At our house we have some technology rules that focus on safety and appropriateness.
1. Kids don’t “friend” people on social media whom they don’t know personally. We’ve instructed our daughter to keep all interactions limited to the people who are face to face friends. She’s not to accept friend requests from strangers or even casual acquaintances.
2. Never give out phone numbers and addresses. There’s no reason to share this information on social media. In addition, if our child knows the requesting person in real life, she shouldn’t need to provide this information electronically.
3. Parents lurk in the background. I frequently read my child’s texts, e-mails, and social media posts. At our house it is a well-known fact that no electronic activity is private. Mom and Dad have the right to read everything, and we often do.
4. Parents follow their children on all social media platforms. We read what’s being posted and shared on all my daughter’s social media accounts. At times I have asked my child to remove items that I felt were inappropriate or not right for the occasion. There aren’t any surprises here because I’m closely following it all.
5. Limit technology use to certain hours. We don’t let our kids use technology 24-7, even amid protests and complaints. We give them “hours,” and we stick to it. All mobile devices are placed in a central location at bedtime and kept on silent.
6. Use parental controls, when available. There are a host of apps and provider-available controls out there to help parents keep track of technology. Verizon is our provider, and we enabled a function called “Verizon Family Base” to help us monitor digital use. We also ration our data plan so that she only gets a certain amount every billing cycle. This helps her learn how to manage her own activity wisely. A friend of mine uses an app called “Mama Bear” that also allows parents to track their children online. Whatever parental controls are available, it’s a smart move to employ them.
7. Pay attention to age guidelines. My daughter was unhappy that we kept her off Facebook until she was 13, but there is an age guideline for a reason. Most kids under age 13 have a difficult time using discernment on social media sites. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Kik, and Snapchat also have age guidelines, as do Vine, Tinder and Yik Yak. Allowing younger use of social media tells kids that breaking the rules and lying is okay. As the parents, we follow the guidelines and we make kids do the same.
Technology can be a wonderful tool when used correctly. Kids still need their parents’ guidance, though, and it makes sense for parents to set up rules just as they would in any other type of situation.
Contact Holly McElwee at email@example.com.