Social media is now an extension of a person’s life. It’s important to set clear expectations, guidelines, and consequences. Talk with your children early and often about everything, including technology. Rather than waiting until something happens to talk about consequences, decide what you see as inappropriate behavior and let them know, as well as what consequences they may face if they break your trust.
If you see or hear about your children doing something inappropriate on the internet, what should the consequences be? Also consider: What guidelines are you going to establish regarding your ability to access their phones and accounts?
It’s also important for kids to understand there may be other real-life ramifications to their online actions. I find that I still need to remind my children that what they post on the Internet stays there, forever. Would they be comfortable if a potential employer sees something they posted? I challenge them to: Stop, Think, and Do the Right Thing. Is what they’re considering worth the consequence? If they’re questioning whether it’s something they want to live with for years, then maybe they don’t want to do it. If they’re still willing to do it, then they need to understand it’s on them.
When there are news segments about students getting in trouble because of their social media posts, utilize them as teachable moments. I find my children are more open to talk in the car where we’re not face to face.
Additionally, safety can be a concern when it comes to sharing information instantly. Teens need to understand that by writing on a friend’s Facebook wall about plans, Periscoping, or Instagramming a picture with your location, numerous people will be able to find them. These could potentially be complete strangers with unknown motivations. Mindfulness is so important for teens to comprehend when it comes to what they share socially.
One thing that has helped with both my daughter and my son is that I established an open communication paradigm early in their lives. I’ve told them I may not agree with or approve of everything they tell me, but it’s still important to be open and honest. And, if it merits a deeper discussion, we have it, including why I do not approve. As a result, I know a great deal about what’s happening in their lives.
The 20+ years I spent in public education has given me great insights into the minds of children. I ask my children and the students I work with, “What is your internal compass telling you and where is it leading you?” If what they see and hear does not align with their internal compass, then this should give them pause. I like to challenge them to think about the motive for posting something. Open-ended questions facilitate a foundation for rich and meaningful conversations. I want my children to understand that what is presented on social media is not a healthy measuring stick for them to utilize – their internal compass is much more accurate.
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