Whether we like it or not, the world has evolved so that social media is a part of almost every aspect of our lives. It seeps into our interactions with friends and family, our colleagues and even people we don’t know. We’re always hearing of new features showing up on Instagram. Sometimes we get emails about how the terms and conditions are changing on YouTube.
Today children are growing up as fast as social media is evolving. While the world wide web can seem daunting and big to navigate, there are ways we can ensure our kids are safely exploring it.
The Tell-Tale Signs of Unsafe Social Media Usage
The most at-risk group for unsafe social media use are teenagers. Teenagers deal with elevated social comparison, developing brains and less education around #SafeSocial. They’re at a stage of life where peer-to-peer comparison increases in an effort to understand their identity, and their adult social support didn’t grow up with social media.
Some red flags to consider:
• Are they checking as soon as they wake up?
• How often are they active?
• Do you notice a mood change when they aren’t able to use social media for some reason?
• Do they spend a lot of time thinking or talking about or planning how they’ll use it?
• Is it negatively affecting their studies?
Spending a lot of time on social media, feeling anxious when not participating and even organising their life around it might be affecting their relationships with others and their ability to focus on work or school. It’s important to put in effort to step in at this stage.
We can’t control their experiences, but we can teach them to process situations and manage emotions. The most important step you can take toward #SafeSocial is to model good behaviour. It’s hard to teach others about practicing safe social media use if you yourself are not practicing it.
Start talking about social media early and whenever it’s relevant. If a story comes out about social media as it relates to mental health or safety, share your thoughts. “This is why we need to be very careful on social media. Many different kinds of people can be there.”
Keep communication open and safe. Kids will test your reactions to situations before they share information that might get them in trouble. Parents might not realise that they’ve unintentionally shut down a conversation or teachable moment. Here’s an example conversation.
If they say, “This boy at school flashed his friends on social media and they took a screenshot and sent it around to everyone,” you might respond with, “Wow! That’s so terrible, they should all be punished!” But that shuts down the chance for your child to work it out with you. Instead, you can ask questions, like “Why did he do that? How did others react? Would you do this? Why or
Risky behaviours can be difficult to talk about with our kids. We want to keep them safe – but we also don’t want to annoy them. We want to know what’s going on – but we also want them to know that they can trust us. We know that it starts with us and that we need to practice #SafeSocial – so they can follow suit. It’s not hard, we just need to commit to ensuring the safety of our children and being ready to constantly learn.
For more information and resources to help you and your teen practice #safesocial media use – head to www.safesocialmedia.co