If you’re raising a child or teen today, social media can feel almost unavoidable. 

And in some cases, that’s a good thing! Social media is a powerful tool for communicating with others, learning, and staying informed about world events. 

But social media also has plenty of dangers, and if we don’t teach our children about online safety, the consequences can be severe.

In this article, we’ll discuss four strategies you can use to educate your children about the internet and help make sure they stay safe.

1. Teach Your Kids About Online Stranger Danger

When you learned about “Stranger danger” growing up, you probably were warned about lone adults in the park or strangers in vans. 

But online stranger danger can be even harder to spot. The internet makes it possible for dangerous adults to groom children while posing as kind, friendly figures, or even to pretend to be another child. 

Before giving your child a phone or allowing them to create social media accounts, make sure they understand the responsibilities and the dangers involved. Here are three questions you can ask when deciding if it’s time for your child to get a phone:

  1. Is your child educated on the risks and benefits of technology? Providing education on what not to put out on the internet is essential to avoid child predators. 
  2. Do they need a smartphone or a flip phone? Maybe your child just needs a way to contact you in emergencies. Or maybe they’re ready for a phone with internet access. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your child at their current age and level of responsibility!
  3. What monitoring will you do on your child’s phone? There are plenty of options for restricting applications or websites that might not be age appropriate. Make sure to take advantage of them! 

2. Talk to Your Child About Privacy and Digital Footprints

It can be difficult for children to understand that the things they put on the internet last forever. Take the time to teach your child about the importance of their digital footprint.

You should also remind them that social media is not private, and create guidelines for them about the things they can and cannot share.  

This may include not putting your name as a username or sharing your address, phone number, or school. Identifying information and pictures can give clues to predators about a child’s whereabouts.

3. Establish Open Communication and Trust with Your Child 

One of the easiest ways for a kid to know they can come to us when things go wrong is for us to welcome them to come to us when things are going right or even just average.

Give your kids time and a listening ear when you are able. If they come to you, and you don’t have time, set a time to circle and talk about whatever they have on their minds. 

You should also make sure to talk openly about social media and the safety concerns that can come with it. Teach your child about online predators and all of the warning signs they should be on the lookout for.

4. Monitor Social Media Access and Control 

Social media is not all or nothing, and as a parent, you get to decide what’s right for your child! 

Maybe you think your child is ready for Instagram, but not TikTok. 

Maybe you want to set time limits for how much they can use social media each day.

Use parental controls on your child’s phone or on third-party apps to set the rules that make sense for your family. And make sure to know your child’s account passwords and check in regularly to make sure nothing concerning is happening.

5. Know When it’s Time to Take Social Media Away

If you notice concerns with your child’s social media usage, it’s OK to change your mind about social media rules. 

Maybe you notice your kid is staying up too late using social media, or struggling to finish homework on time. Don’t be afraid to set new limits or take away their access for a period of time. 

If you and your family are struggling to navigate the world of social media, know that there are resources available to you! Backpack Healthcare provides family and pediatric therapy, and we’re here to support you if you need some extra help. Visit this page to learn more about scheduling an appointment.

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