Kids and social media: 5 questions to ask before posting

Let’s face it, your kids are going to live in a world where technology is a part of their daily life. They will connect with friends on social media–incarnations of which haven’t even been invented yet–they will work remotely, they will learn about the world around them virtually, and they will be forced to confront the ethical challenges and pitfalls that this incredible tool presents.

Cyberbullying, privacy, body image and media, misinformation – these are real and scary threats faced by our children when they venture into the world wide web. However in this digital age, it is a disservice to try and shield our children from this technology completely, and it is unfair to not prepare them for the temptations and consequences they will face.

A 2015 survey by Common Sense Media showed that 53% of tweens {ages 8-12} have their own tablet and 24% have their own smartphone. Teenagers {ages 13-18} not surprisingly spend about nine hours a day consuming media, and nearly 67% of them have their own smartphone. Not only is technology a part of their lives, but it is right at their fingertips for the majority of the day.

So unless you plan on banishing your children to a remote desert island with no wi-fi {believe us, we’ve considered it too!}, chances are that they will at the very minimum have some kind of social networking account. In fact, Common Sense Media says that 75% of teenagers have at least one such account, and kids are asking for this privilege younger and younger. According to the non-profit organization, 11% of children ages 0-8 use a tablet, smartphone, or similar device to consume media.

The big question is: What do you do to protect your children without holding them back? First things first, it’s time to become their “friend”. Whether they are on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. it is well within your parental rights to require at the very minimum friendship-level access to their page. Friend them, follow them, and monitor regularly. Use your best judgment, however, and try and refrain from liking and commenting “Mommy loves you” on every post. Depending on your child’s age and their experience using technology, knowing all of their passwords is also a reasonable request.

RELATED: Grandparents, grandkids and social media: Using technology to connect across generations

When you feel like it is age appropriate for your children to have social media accounts, it’s important to have an open dialogue with them about boundaries, suggestions, and your own rules. For instance, “The second you post a picture of yourself in a bikini, your account will be deleted.” Or, “If being on social media makes you upset it’s not worth it.”

Here are five questions you should teach your children to ask and ask with them before they post to any social medium {Really, this is probably a good idea for adults as well!}.

  1. Would I show this post to my grandmother?

If you are anything like me, getting in trouble with your parents as a kid was not entirely uncommon. However, if I thought that I was going to disappoint or upset my grandmother I would be devastated. Choose a grandmother, mentor, teacher, or coach that is an important and influential figure in your child’s life and urge them to ask themselves what that person would think about whatever they are posting.

  1. Would I say this to her face?

Anonymity can be dangerous when it comes to social media; it is the ultimate form of gossip. Urge your children to only post comments and statements that they would be comfortable saying to someone’s face. Yes, maybe you think your classmate’s outfit is tacky, but chances are you would never walk up to her and say that. This is a good rule of thumb for digital chatter. And to fall back on the old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say, you probably shouldn’t say anything at all.

  1. Do I want to go to college/have a job one day?

This might be a tough sell for the younger crowd, but assure your children that not only future employers but also college admissions representatives most definitely view your social media presence as an extension of your resume. That silly post might be the difference of getting the job or not getting the job, or a nasty comment might jeopardize the college of your dreams.

  1. What does this say about my brand?

Everything we post online becomes a part of our personal digital brand. If you post a lot of negative comments and mean-spirited content, the world begins to see you as a mean person. If your pictures are lacking in clothing, the world will also form opinions. It’s important that we teach our children that these images are long-lasting {actually, they are pretty permanent in the digital realm} and very hard to recreate.

  1. Am I ready for this to go viral?

Sure, that video is funny, and a little embarrassing when viewed by your closest friends and family. But will it still be funny and just a little embarrassing when the whole world sees it without knowing you, or will it become mortifying? One of the most powerful yet dangerous aspects of this technology is that once we post something our control over it is gone. Make sure that what you put out into the world is something you wouldn’t mind being witnessed on a massive scale.

Ultimately, every parent must choose what is appropriate for their own children. It is becoming more and more difficult, however, to abstain from these technologies completely, although it is possible. Rather than shield our children from technology, we can choose to make this a teachable opportunity and prepare them for an inevitable digital world.

Megan Bohrer _ Indy's Child

Busy is a way of life for Megan Bohrer, a working mother of two kids with a surprise baby on the way. A recent transplant to the Midwest, Megan and her young family are enjoying discovering everything the Circle City has to offer.

As a social worker by day, Megan actively builds community relationships and helps families in need with her work for the Children’s Bureau. Megan also works as the Editorial Director for theCityMoms, the premier social events and support community for Indy moms. When her kids are in bed, Megan also writes for theCityMoms, Indy’s Child magazine, and works on the next great American novel, one chapter at a time.

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