How To Monitor Your Kids Social Media Habits
For decades there’s been a concern about what the nature of social media can do to adolescent kids, teens, and young adults. Since the days of dial-up and chat rooms the online world has been an opportunity for people to exploit, harass, and bully with a sense of anonymity.
I was a pre-teen when we got a dial-up service, I was impressionable and young with no one to police what I was doing online. I have no memory of how I found my first chat room, but I remember spending every free moment online chatting with people I didn’t know. I was 12 when I had my first “online boyfriend”. The conversations that happened, the information I freely gave to this stranger shocks me - in the mid-90’s no one understood the real dangers that came out of the cyber-world. And because of the lack of social media connecting us to viral news stories we have no way of really grasping how much harm was actually done because we just weren’t aware and didn’t know better.
That was over twenty years ago, and the dangers of over-sharing and connecting with strangers online are clearer than ever. There are safeguards that parents can put in place to help protect kids from online predators and many parents do their best to educate their kids on how to use the internet safely and what information should never be shared online. But as we all know, kids will be kids. For this reason it’s vital that parents go a step beyond to keep a watch out for unsafe online behaviors. No one wants to spy on their kids, or be a watch dog looking over their shoulders – but here are some tips to help you tune in to whether or not your child is using the internet in a healthy way.
Are they hooked on their phones even when they’re with friends?If your preteen/teen is hooked on their phone and social media even when they’re with the friends they claim they use it to keep in touch with – you should start considering that they’re actually talking to someone you don’t know about.
Are they pulling away from friends while checking their social networks more regularly? Your kid may be having online issues that are creating a wedge between those he/she was close to, or even that your child has formed bonds with people online that interfere with the friendships they have locally.
Are you finding numbers you don’t recognize on your cell phone statements?Keeping an eye on your statements can give you an idea of the communication your teen is taking from social networks to more private communication avenues.
Are they behaving differently online?You should feel comfortable requiring your child to connect with you in all social media platforms. This should be a standard rule for allowing your teen to have a social media account, but this serves a different purpose than just knowing what they show you. This will allow you to see if their online behavior changes, if they begin posting more (or less) you can begin to research alternate accounts, online harassment, and social media issues they’re dealing with.
These are just a few examples of ways you can keep your finger on the pulse of your child’s online habits without sneaking in to their online accounts and devices. Before you allow your children to use online networks you should trust them to have open communication with you, and feel comfortable setting rules and guidelines for amount of time spent online, what kind of information can be shared, and how to handle any issues they have online.