A few years back, when my oldest daughter was six or seven, I remember struggling with giving her the freedom to ride her bike around our neighborhood with her friends. Of course, eventually I let her do it, but I wanted to make sure of a few things before she took off on that ride…
- Were the people she was with responsible?
- Had her mom and I set her up for success ahead of time, by teaching her not only how to ride a bike, but how to be on the lookout for cars and other obstacles as well?
As with most things, looking back on how much thought we put into it, and how much we worried is a bit laughable, but at the time it all seemed very real.
We’ve come to yet another mile marker along the road trip of parenting, this time it’s social media use. Our daughter occasionally mentions her friends use of social media websites like Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter.
Even though there’s no distracted driver with the potential to run her off the road like there was when she was riding her bike, the dangers of social media are just as real.
How have we been setting her up for success with social media use the same way we did with riding a bike? We started by simply talking about it. “Stuff that’s on the internet is there FOREVER,” we tell her (Like any ten-year-old kid really cares about the concept of forever.) “Sometimes people on the internet aren’t who they pretend to be,” is answered with, “I know dad.” It was a start.
We’re currently in the training wheels phase of teaching our daughter about social media. We have a website tracker that blocks certain sites and shows us everywhere she’s been on the internet. She’s allowed to email her friends and text relatives only.
We’re still a couple of years (hopefully) away from giving her a social media account. Even then, we’ll be checking in on it, invading way more of her privacy than she’ll like.
My wife and I want to make sure our daughter is as prepared for her journey on the information superhighway as she was on that first bike ride around the neighborhood with her friends.