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Social Media and Kids

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Keep the computer in a public part of your home, such as the family room or kitchen, so that you can check on what your kids are doing online and how much time they are spending there.

Talk with other parents about what their kids of similar ages are using for social media (SM). Ask your kids about their favorite technologies as a starting point for discussion. If they are in the same peer group, there is a good chance they are all using the same platforms together. For example:

For teens: “Mrs. Smith told me Jennifer uses Facebook. Is that something you’ve thought of doing? Do you already have a profile? If so, I’d like to see it.”

For tweens and older elementary school kids: “Are you planning on meeting up with kids on Club Penguin today? I’d love to see how that works.” Or, “Let’s look at your text log together. I’d like to see who’s been texting you.”

For all ages, emphasize that everything sent over the Internet or a cell phone can be shared with the entire world. Therefore, it is important that they use good judgment in sending messages and pictures and set privacy settings on social media sites appropriately.

Discuss with kids of every age what “good judgment” means and the consequences of poor judgment, ranging form minor punishment to possible legal action in the case of “sexting” (see below) or bullying.

Remember to make a point of discouraging kids from gossiping, spreading rumors, bullying, or damaging someone’s reputation using texting or other tools.

To keep kids safe, have your kids and teens show you the privacy features for each SM venue they are using. Greater privacy means it is less likely your child will recieve inappropriate material, or send it to their circle of acquaintances.

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 require parental consent to use.

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.