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Know How to Use Social Media Yourself!

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The journal Pediatrics (from the American Academy of Pediatrics) has designed a website with recommendations for parents about their childrens’ use of social media and monitoring use. This blog report is from that AAP web site:

Be aware of the ages of use for sites your tweens and older elementary school kids want to use, including game sites such as ‘Club Penguin’ and ‘Webkins.’ Many sites are for age 13 and older, and the sites for younger kids do require parental consent to use.

Be sure you are where your kids are online: IM, Facebook, MySpace, etc. Have a policy requiring that you and your child “friend” each other. This is one way of showing your child you are there, too, and will provide a check and balance system by having an adult within arm’s reach of their profile. This is important for kids of all ages, including teens.

Show your kids you know how to use what they are using, and are willing to learn what you may not know how to do.

Create a strategy for monitoring your kids’ online SM use, and be sure you follow through. Some families may check once a week and others more sporadically. You may want to say “Today I’ll be checking your computer and cell phone.” The older your kids are, the more often you may need to check.

Consider formal monitoring systems to track your child’s email, chat, IM and image content. Parental controls on your computer or from your Internet service provider, Google Desktop or commercial programs are all reasonable alternatives.

Set time limits for Internet and cell phone use. Learn the warning signs of trouble: skipping activities/meals/homework for SM; weight loss or gain; a drop in grades.

If these issues are occurring due to your child being online when they should be eating, sleeping, participating in school or social activities, your child may have a problem with Internet or SM addiction. Contact your pediatrician for advice if any of these symptoms are occurring.

Check chat logs, emails, files and social networking profiles for inappropriate content, friends, messages, and images periodically. Be transparent and let your kids know what you are doing. Multitasking can be dangerous–even deadly.

Be sure to stress to teens the importance of not texting, Facebooking, using the phone, listening to ear buds or earphones, or engaging in similarly distracting activities while driving. These forms of distracted driving are illegal in many states because they are so dangerous.

And caution kids of all ages about using mobile devices while walking, biking, babysitting or doing other things that require their full attention.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.