Teach Your Tween Digital Etiquette

By Scott Steinberg
Sibling Selfie - Digital Safety

Do you know what social media networks your kids are actively using—and how they’re using them? If you don’t, it’s important to find out, and gain a firm understanding of how each service works and how kids can use them to connect with others and share their thoughts.

Aside from comprehending the basics of how social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat function, there are lots of other ways families keep children safe on social networks.

Looking for help in guiding your child to be a responsible digital citizen online? Use this guide to address common questions that many parents may have about getting their kids started on social networks.

Avoid Negative Situations

Tell your children to avoid saying anything negative about specific people, places or—in the case of teens—co-workers or bosses. It’s likely that anything said on a social media network will find its way back to them, and presents the potential for negative consequences such as the loss of a job, trouble getting into college or awkward personal interactions. Don’t spread rumors, innuendo, name-calling and negative gossip either. In other words, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it—negativity never reflects well on the individual spreading it. Likewise, if you’re not willing to say something directly to others’ faces in real life, then don’t do so publicly for the world to see online.

Keep the Future in Mind

Although no one knows exactly what the future holds, chances are your kids will be applying to college after high school, and soon after that entering the work force. In the future, people making life-changing decisions about your child’s life are sure to examine their social media profiles in addition to any other information they’ve made public. So remind kids that the things they post now can and likely will be interpreted as part of their character and temperament, even if it’s five or 10 years down the line. Remember: Everything that’s done, said or shared on social networks needs to be treated as if it cannot be taken back. Because it can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Even if you remove it from your profile or timeline, it’s likely it was already seen by others, and in some cases may have been shared.

Be Kind and Respectful to Others

Don’t share any photos or other information that is embarrassing, unflattering or controversial to anyone. Teach kids that if a subject raises even the slightest question in your mind, it’s best to just erase it before hitting the “post,” “tweet,” or “share” button.

Track Usage Times

After you set your time limits, come up with a timer or other way to track your kids’ online social media network usage.  It’s easy to whittle away the hours checking out photos or interacting with friends—time which often is supposed to be used for more important tasks, like homework.

Protect Your Privacy

Don’t announce where you are, where you are going or where you will be, especially as it pertains to family vacations or other instances when you may be away from your home for lengthy periods. Revealing location information makes it easy for others to pinpoint when family members are away, children may be vulnerable and/or when your house will be completely empty (and therefore a prime target for a robbery). Likewise, do not accept friend requests from strangers on social networking sites, and configure your profile so that information and media is only shared with approved contacts. Note that privacy settings and features may frequently change on some social networks, so it’s important to check them regularly and ensure that your information is protected.

Respect Boundaries

Although it is recommended that you connect with your kids on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networks they may use, you as a parent need to also know your boundaries, just as you do in real life. To avoid embarrassment or overstepping your bounds, refrain from publicly posting to their timeline on Facebook and don’t follow their friends on Facebook. Likewise, kids shouldn’t be afraid to ask others to remove photos, videos, comments, posts or items which you are they don’t approve of in which they’re tagged from their social network profile. Friends won’t want to do anything which could offend you or make you feel uncomfortable, and the request will likely even spark dialogue as to what is and isn’t appropriate to be sharing.

Encourage Balanced Activity

Encourage your kid to spend at least an equivalent amount of time as they spend on social networks in real-life activities. Whether it’s simply requiring certain communication to be done via phone or in person or setting aside time in activities not related to online social activities, experts agree that a healthy balance between online time spent on social networks and other outdoor activities is essential for a balanced lifestyle. When kids are on social networks, consider pointing out if real-life friends are online—and encourage them to connect more in the actual world.

Want more info? Get tips on how to have a conversation with your child about using social networks.

Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks.

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