PARENTING IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE: HOW TO KEEP YOUR CHILD SAFE
You can keep your child safe in the social media age with a few tips to help you stay up to speed with today’s technology and your child’s plugged-in world.
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.