Social media can play a significant role in the lives of children, providing ample avenues for connecting with others online. While social media can be enjoyable and pleasant, it can also carry dangers and negative results, if used unwisely. Educate your children about the respectful use of social media to keep them safe.
Safe and wise use of social media involves careful disclosure of personal information. Teach your kids that personal and identifying information about them and family members is off-limits for social media and the Internet, counsels OnGuardOnline.gov, a website run by the Federal Trade Commission. This includes street address, telephone numbers, financial information and Social Security numbers. Discourage location check-ins for kids, too. Location check-ins can be particularly unsafe if your child is checking in from a remote location where she is alone.
While bullying in general is a real issue for kids, cyberbullying involves online bullying through social media avenues. In many instances, it can be easier for kids to engage in bullying behavior over the Internet, according to a research paper on the NYU Child Study Center website. Empathy is easier to forgo and ignore, and witnesses that might discourage a bully often don’t have the same influence on the Internet. Ensure that your child understands how to employ empathy and respectful interacting with others to avoid cyberbullying behavior. Threats of emotional and physical violence should be strictly off-limits as well.
Avoid Emotional Posting
It’s wise to take a deep breath and calm down before expressing feelings and thoughts to others in face-to-face conversations. This wisdom also applies to adding information and updating social media, warns the Child Safety and Abuse Prevention Programs website. When angry or upset, it’s easy to lose perspective and make mistakes about information and details shared online. Once a post goes live online, it’s impossible to take it back. You might post something that you later regret and wish to erase later. Don’t forget common etiquette, too -- “please” and “thank you” are just as important with social media as they are in face-to-face encounters.
Make a zero-tolerance policy about discussing sex online. OnGuardOnline.gov suggests that kids who do not engage in sexual talk online with strangers are less likely to run into sexual predators. Teach your kids to disengage immediately and block any unknown people who make contact with them.
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