The landscape of social interaction between teens has changed tremendously with the growing use of social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, as well as common use of text messaging to communicate. Most tweens and teens are glued to cell phones and computers for decent chunks of the day. How do you monitor your child’s social media usage and promote online safety?
Learn the Ropes
If you’re not already familiar with social media and cell phone technology, it’s time to play catch-up. Get a Facebook account and familiarize yourself with the security settings and actually use the account to connect with friends and family. The more you use these platforms, the more you’ll understand how your child might use them or currently uses them. You don’t need to catch up on all the latest text speak, but do familiarize yourself with how to use your phone for text messaging. Read up on the latest social networking safety guidelines.
Connect With Your Kid
Friend your teen on Facebook. While it’s certainly possible for him to filter you out, you’re at the very least establishing yourself as an adult you knows how to use Facebook and genuinely wants to participate. Text your child when appropriate. While you don’t need to entirely infiltrate your child’s online social circles, it’s important to be as aware and inquisitive as you can. Unless you have evidence that there’s a safety issue at hand, avoid trying to break into your child’s accounts or emails. This kind of breech in trust could cause your child to hide things from you in the future.
Try not to get too worked up if you notice minor offenses like an off-color joke or a swear word in your teen’s chat box on the computer screen. Instead, focus on major issues like online predators, information about illegal drugs, promotion of underage drinking and sexting. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests walking your child through making sure privacy settings are set to the highest limits on social media sites. The FTC advises against using screen names that share too much, including age and home town.
If There’s a Problem
Most kids will spend a lot of time online via the phone and computer. This is normal, but if it begins to get out of hand, you may need to set limits. Each day, talk to your child about how much time she’s spent on social media sites. If setting limitations isn’t working, you may need to install software that disables the Internet or certain sites during homework hours. Consider keeping your child’s phone in lockdown until homework is finished or for set times.
The LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is a coalition of members of the community who strive to address alcohol and drug use in Pinellas County. Visit us online today to see how you can get involved in this cause that is so important to our community.