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You can’t avoid it. Kids are getting on to social media and the internet. Before kids can walk they can learn how to open and close applications on an iPhone. There are some serious benefits to children becoming tech savvy and some disadvantages. One thing is certain: It’s important that you take an active role in your child’s online life. I say “online life” because for most kids and teenagers it becomes really easy to compartmentalise or separate their online life from their actual life. It’s important that early on they understand that one can and does affect the other.
1: Facebook has an age limit for a reason
Nothing peeves me more than seeing a child on Facebook. Facebook is great. It’s an essential tool for communication; however, did you know that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to join Facebook? Yes, it’s easy to lie, but you need to take responsibility and make sure that they stay away from Facebook until they’re the right age and they create an account with your permission. Just a side note: when they do have an account, change their privacy setting to be as strict as possible. Do the same with Twitter, Instagram, etc.
2: Use filtering software
Kids are smarter than you and I realize. They know how to erase history and clear cookies on internet browsers. While filtering software can be expensive, I think it’s worth the expense. Don’t say, “Well I have a girl, I don’t have to worry about that.” Do you honestly believe that girls have less curiosity than boys?
I recommend buying Circle created by Disney. It’s an awesome product that let’s you set time limits, set a “bed time”, filter inappropriate material via age group, “pause” the internet, and gives you insights into what your kids are looking at and how long they are on each application.
You can buy Circle through my referral link here for $99. Best $99 ever spent on parenting.
3: Create rules
Create time limits for how long your child can be online and stick to them. Keep your computer, even if it’s an iPad, in a central location. The Family Online Institute provides some really great guidelines for children you can see here.
You can also use Circle (referral link) to enforce time limits.
4: Monitor the pictures that your child puts online
You’ve already been posting a million pictures of your child online since the day they were born. They’ve already got thousands of TBT for the rest of their lives thanks to your insane digital collection.
And because of this, they will continue to post pictures of themselves online. In a perfect world, they would never do this ever, but we can’t expect that.
Remind your children that they should never take photos that would be inappropriate and then remind them to only post photos of themselves if they are appropriate.
I would also recommend to try and not take photos where it shows exactly where you are and to turn off location settings for most apps. I say this because the world is still full of predators. Selfies are fine, selfies in front of a sign saying, “OMG we’re here right now with my BFF Jill and we’re waiting on our parents to arrive” is probably a no-go. Talk with your kids about taking appropriate pictures.
5: What goes online, stays online forever
When I was 9 years old, I built my first website.
That website is archived on archive.org.
It will be there forever.
When I was 11, I started blogging on LiveJournal. I can probably take that blog down if I’d like, but it’s still up and guess what? It’s archived on archive.org.
Your online reputation lasts forever, remind your kid to not to do anything online that they wouldn’t do in person.
6: DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER
Do you remember when your parents sat you down and told you to not talk to strangers?
Well online, EVERYONE is basically a stranger and you should remind them that.
If your kid makes friends online, just be sure to review these friendships and make sure that the people they are talking to are who they actually are. I made lots of fun online relationships throughout my childhood that have lasted into adulthood. The internet has changed a bit, but keep an open and honest line between you and your kid about what they’re doing online.
7: Get to know the tech yourself
If your kids are on Snapchat, I recommend that you get on it too. The more your presence is there, the less likely they are to make a decision they will regret later.
8: More than anything, model behavior
If you don’t want your kids to be posting selfies all day, then you shouldn’t be taking them either.
Whatever you do and deem as appropriate, they will also do.
Help your kids learn how to share and what to share on social media. They’re growing up in the information age, but they don’t have to grow up in a dangerous one.