Social Media For Parents: How not to cramp your kid’s style

Submitted by on the 17th of May 2012

Our children are living in the information age. They have moved from just chatting via text messages, BBM, WhatsApp, IM, mig33 or MXit. They want to stay in touch with friends; which is where social media comes in. With incidences of cyber bullying, sexting and pedophiles on the prowl, it’s only natural that parents are concerned about their online safety. While you still want to keep tabs on what is going on in their lives and what they come into contact with, you don’t want to invade their privacy and end up losing their trust. It’s important that you educate and empower them by setting proper ground rules.

RULE 1: Keep personal information to a minimum. There is no need to put up school or home addresses, what time you leave or arrive, geotagging on photos or checking in on networks. Open an email account for them that they can use for every site (for signing up and logging in) and monitor its use.

RULE 2: Tell them to choose a password only they will know but that’s easy to remember. Common things like birthdays, hometown, school or mother’s middle name are not the way to go. Shy away from choosing the same password for all accounts as well, as once the real one is deciphered, you are left completely vulnerable.

RULE 3: Only accept friend requests from people you know. Some hackers and identity thieves make fake accounts to access your information. Teach them how to report spam and block suspicious users as well.

Rule 4: Everything stays in cyber space forever, so be selective of what content, photos and videos they put up. Even if you delete an account, someone could have saved files and information about them onto their computer, not to mention Google’s cache that can store information for weeks after it’s been deleted.

RULE 5: Enable content filtering and monitoring on your home computer and establish a list of age-appropriate sites. Also allocate a certain amount of screen time. Too much will leave them idling and wandering onto unwanted sites, whilst too little will leave them unsatisfied and likely frustrated.

At the end of the day, the point is to have them integrate their passion, creativity and curiosity into the information age. Don’t be that nagging parent who comments on their every photo and status, rather be the street-smart one who laid the right foundations.