Social media and how it’s affecting kids lives is a big topic in my life right now.

A lot of children in senior primary have smart phones, so the next step is to start using social media. Saying NO is not the answer, because they’re just going to use it anyway behind your back, and that’s quite a scary option in my opinion.

Here are a few tips to help you and your child cope with social media:

  1. Don’t stop them from using Whatsapp and Instagram etc, but rather set rules and boundaries
    All their friends are using the apps, and most of the time it’s good. They use it for homework help and they communicate about what’s happening at school. It’s been useful when there’s a special day at school, and we’ve lost the communication about it!
    However, I’ve set boundaries… one of them is that the phone sleeps in my bedroom or the kitchen. There’s no need for the phone to be on at night, he needs to sleep. I’ve blogged about this before… you’d be amazed how late kids are chatting during the school week!
  2. Get to know your child’s friends
    By knowing who their friends are, it’s easier to work out whether strangers are befriending them.
  3.  Show an interest in their online lives.
    Let your kids know that you’ll follow them.  It’s not because you’re going to interfere with their lives, you are interested in what they do. That way, you can start seeing when there’s trouble brewing, and you can help them steer through the issues. You’ll also be able to pick up if there’s something going on that you need to do something about.
  4. Be honest and direct when talking to your child about topics that come up in their feed.
    I find this really hard, because sometimes I think he’s not ready for it, but no-one should be dealing with drugs, and suicide and sex issues on their own (especially when they’re 12!).
  5. Help your tween to make healthy choices by encouraging them to make their own decisions.
    Show them how to find out whether someone is a friend or foe before they befriend them online. Let them know you’ll help… calmly 😉
    If they join a new social site or app, be aware of it. Understand how it works, and what it’ll mean for them.

I’ve seen a few very scary things in my son’s feed, that he shouldn’t be dealing with alone. And it’s clear to me that many of his friends are on social sites without their parents being aware of it… or if they’re aware of it, they’re not reading what their kids are posting publicly.

I believe that it’s up to parents to help their kids navigate through this. Granted, it’s unknown territory for most parents. And a lot of people I know, with kids at school with my kids, have no idea how Instagram works for example. But learn. Teach yourself. Try them out. Read up about the sites. Enable yourself and your kids.

I’d love to know what you think, let me know in the comments. Also let me know if there’s something else on this topic that you’d like to know. I’ll be glad to blog more about this.