Guiding your kids through the social media minefield

Guiding your kids through the social media minefield


Do we really believe that our children “can’t be harmed, or harm others when they are sitting with a device in the comfort of their family home?”

Tara Moss revealed some alarming statistics about the lack of involvement parents are having with their children’s online activity that may suggest this is so, in her article this weekend Are kids safe online? Answer is, they’re only as safe as you make them.

Or perhaps the fact that 74% of parents don’t know what their kids are doing online is more representative of widespread uncertainty about how to broach the digital minefield they face. It is certainly a daunting task.

As a mother and mother-to-be of daughters, we are only too aware of the potential threats that social media and online activity present to young women today.

We play out the conversation we will have about self esteem and the way in which sexting could destroy their reputations and close doors in the future. Knowing recruiters and hiring managers not only source talent online, but routinely screen candidates on social media during the recruitment process, we understand the digital footprint they create with their online activity could make or break their futures.

We strategise about how to protect our girls from the type of e-bile Tara Moss reflects upon. How will we keep them from being harassed by malicious comments and messages from trolls who have no empathy for the real people at the receiving end of their venom.

It could stop us sleeping at night, to think about how boys will be expecting the P(orn) S(Tar) E(experience) based on their repetitive online exposure to pornography.

In the 7.30 Report Porn’s distortions need addressing at school, educators argue Melinda Tankard Reist tells us that “our boys are looking at porn not only before they’ve had sex, but before they have even had their first kiss”, which is distorting their views and forming beliefs that normal sex is violent, degrading, painful and disrespectful.

“It puts a lot of pressure on us,” one teenage girl said.

It sure does.

Despite all this, we are advocates of social media and believe strongly in the power of positive posting. The opportunities that our young people can create through their online skills and savvy are potentially game changing and can be achieved with hands-on guidance. And this guidance needs to start early.

As parents of children who have had smartphones in their hands from infancy, we see the value in open communication and active guidance… Here are 5 top tips for parents navigating the social media minefield to ensure their children’s futures stay bright:

  1. Ask your kids about which apps their friends are using, how and why.
    Understanding what social media apps are popular with your kids and their friends and how they are being used will inform your decisions about which apps are safe for your child to engage with and which apps are havens for trolls and predators. There are many apps that are known to facilitate this and you need to be aware of what’s appropriate and what’s not.
  1. Assist them to see the benefit of two-way conversation on social media
    Just as your kids wouldn’t go to a party and talk only about themselves, nor should they build feeds of selfies without interest in others or the world around them. Help kids move beyond purely narcissistic activity online and encourage them to actively listen and engage with others to reap the benefit of information they can access and learn from online. Whilst a lot of kids use social media purely as a communication tool, there is so much that can be learnt from people doing interesting things.
  1. Encourage children to be the same person online that they are offline
    It is important for kids to understand that the values, etiquette and common courtesy that you have instilled in them extends to their behavior online. The number one rule is to treat people as you would like to be treated.
  1. Establish boundaries around devices and encourage use in communal areas
    Whilst this doesn’t necessarily stop inappropriate usage it certainly goes some way to preventing it. If kids have a sense you are aware of what they are participating in online, they may think twice about they are doing. It also makes you readily available to answer any questions about what is and isn’t appropriate.
  1. Build their self esteem offline
    To ensure that they do not post online purely for attention or validation. This is one of the greatest motivators behind kids posting inappropriate content, and it is important for them to realise how this kind of behavour can negatively effect your future. Open dialogue around this issue is key.

The success of our daughters in both their personal lives as well as the workplaces of the future may depend on our ability to have these conversations and set these boundaries.

Note: this article was published on Womens’ Agenda. Click here to take you to their website.

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