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How to create social media-savvy happy kids

It’s a question that keeps many parents up at night—how do you raise safe, happy and confident kids in the age of digital devices and social media?

Social media can be a wonderful thing for tweens and teens, its a place they can connect with friends, be creative and learn about the world.  However, we are all too aware that there is also a darker side to the internet and navigating the stormy waters of social media in a safe and happy way can sometimes be challenging. 

Parents want to keep their kids safe, but they can’t always look over their kids’ shoulder to see what they are doing online. It can be hard to balance monitoring with a teen’s desire to have privacy.

It goes without saying that talking with your kids about social media use is the best way to protect your child and ensure their safety.  However, we all know that that is sometimes easier said than done! Here are some tips to help you:

Talk to them about content 
What a lot of tweens and teens don’t realise is that what they put out on the Internet will most likely stay there forever. Sure, they can delete a post at any time, but there’s a good chance that someone else might have already screengrabbed it beforehand. Talk to your kids about content and what’s appropriate or not appropriate to post.
 
Ask questions
Ask about what they are doing and who they are interacting with.
Asking them about their online habits and activity can build trust and honesty, which are both critical as they get older and become more independent and demand more privacy.  It's not always an easy conversation but the more you do it the more likely kids are to open up. 
 
Model appropriate behaviour
It's the old adage 'practice what you preach'. If your family has a rule that phones are not allowed at the dinner table, then that has to apply to parents, too. Creating rules about when and where it’s appropriate to use computers, phones, and tablets can also serve as an opportunity to talk about the impact of technology on modern life. Agree together on a family what the rules are, whether that's no devices after seven pm, or not having the Ipads in the bedroom overnight. 

 

Stay connected

It’s one thing to establish some common-sense rules; it’s another for tweens to actually act on these guidelines when they are engaged in a flurry of personal texts or social media drama. One approach is to allow tweens and teens to text friends and use social media at their own discretion, on the understanding they share passwords with their parents.  This is called a tethered approach which allows parents to monitor their kids accounts openly at agreed times whilst still giving the kids their freedom to interact. 

Talk about the highlight reel 

There is a constant worry about how social media affects a child's sense of self and worth.  Its important tweens and young teens know that what comes across in their feed is not a fully accurate picture of their friend's lives. From the constant sharing of memes and posed photos to the huge emphasis on ‘likes, our children can get drawn into a superficial and unrealistic impression of other people's lives and how they see themselves. Talking to them about the highlight reel of social media is so important so they understand that posts are just one moment in people's lives and not the reality of the situation.  This conversation can help tweens think about how they are presenting themselves online and whether they are being authentic and true to themselves. 

No to negativity

Make sure your child knows what to do if he is bullied online. Talk to him about the steps to take. Make sure he knows not to respond or retaliate, to keep a record by screenshotting anything he feels is not appropriate, that every platform allows you to block and report anyone that is negative or unkind. And most importantly you are there for him or her to talk to, without judgement.  

Our kids live in a very different world to us when we were younger, their playground is now the online world of social media.  Whilst we do our best to understand this strange world, it has become second nature and an important part of many kids social life and personal development. As parents, all we can do is keep communicating openly and working with our kids to put parameters in place to allow our children to enjoy the positives that social media offers whilst steering clear of the negatives. 

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