Parenting has changed drastically in the past decade. Instead of dinner bells ringing children home, they now have cell phones. Social media has become an obsession and a favorite past time. As technology changes, parenting needs to change as well.
Trying to keep your child safe in the social media crazed world isn’t always easy, but it can be done. Here are a few tips to keep them a little safer while being plugged-in.
Learn the Technology
First and foremost, for parents to be able to help, it is important that they understand how technology works and accept that technology is a big part of young people’s lives, says Silje Vallestad, CEO and founder of Bipper, a mobile safety app company. As cyber bullying situations continue to increase, parents must know how to operate and monitor apps, social media networks and various technology to ensure that their children are acting appropriately and that they are treated respectfully in what is a 24/7 public environment.
“For kids today, being stripped of their access to the social communities and technology in general is considered so bad that they won’t ask for help or tell parents about negative experiences,” says Vallestad. “Parents need to understand that there is a difference between the digital childhood of kids today and their own upbringing, and that access to technology is as important as access to paper and pens.”
Although social media is extremely important to your child, it doesn’t mean they should have full reign of the technology. “Parents should never grant kids access to technology without guiding them in the world of technology and to be able to guide their kids, they need to understand technology and online services,” says Vallestad. “I believe in parents spending time educating themselves, combined with frequent conversations between parent and child about the use of technology in general and use of specific services in particular.”
Use Technology to Bond with Your Child
Monitoring your child’s social media use does not have to be a negative experience, wherein you are acting the part of a spy. Use technology as an opportunity to learn something new from your children and brush up on your own skills. Vallestad, the mother of three kids all using technology, says she uses mobile app alerts that provide information on which social media applications her children are downloading.
“When I see that they have installed apps I either don’t know much about or that I’m worried about (such as SnapChat or Instagram), I make a point of having a good conversation about these services,” she says. “They teach me a lot about technology and the services while we talk about how things can be used for good or bad.”
These conversations can help to create trust between a parent and a child and allow opportunities to talk about how technology can be used to harm others and how to react in those situations. “With our frequent talks on tech, where I show that I’m both interested and involved in their digital lives and also allow them to use technology, I believe we have fostered an atmosphere where they will feel safe to tell me if something bad is happening,” says Vallestad.
Have a Plan of Action
As you are learning the technology, it’s important to remember the top three actions to take when your child is engaged in social media, according to Vallestad.
- Technology is Important to Your Child: Understand that your kids need to use technology and be part of the online communities where their peers are. It’s part of their lives and if you remove it, you will probably create a growing gap between you and your child instead of fostering an atmosphere of dialogue.
- Open Conversations are Necessary: Engage in open and trusting conversations with your kids about technology. Let them tell you, show you and teach you. Reacting with anger or shock to things you might see could result in your kids closing down conversations. Try to stay calm and ask questions. Together, you can agree on rules. Sometimes you both may come to the conclusion that a particular service is not ok. Other times, it is ok but you may require that you will be a friend or follower.
- Research is Key: Do your own research on services and use that research to ask your kids the right questions. However, don’t automatically assume that your kids are using a questionable service in a wrong way simply because there is a lot of information online about that service being used negatively. Do keep an open eye and make sure you are neither naïve nor ignorant about social media.
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