Helping Kids (and Parents!) Navigate the Internet & Social Media

Why do you always have to be on your cell phone?
No more gaming for today!
I’ll let you know when you can get on Facebook!

Do these statements sound familiar? Conflicts between parents and kids related to the internet and social media can be an everyday occurrence in most households. How can we cope?

“Sure, it’s a lot less awkward to install nanny software on your computers than to have a tough conversation with your kid, but the conversation is a lot more effective. Kids will find out how to bypass software every time. A conversation is forever.” – Dave Maass, Media Relations Coordinator & Investigative Researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation

For instance, how can we help teens manage their need to explore their self-identities (which is now increasingly accomplished online) while helping them maintain their safety – not to mention their reputations? Technology is not a choice for this generation of youth – it has always been a part of their lives. Most teens were born the same year YouTube hit the scene; they have never known a world without the internet and cell phones.


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The good news is almost all violence (including bullying) related to youth has decreased greatly over the last two decades while internet use exploded. Recent research also indicates youth in general are making good choices online: most kids are not sexting, meeting up with strangers, or cyberbullying. However, the kids who are likely to engage in risky behavior in “real life” are the same kids taking risks online. What can we do?

Research suggests talking with (not at) teens/kids about the internet and social media is time better spent than spying. Discuss both the negatives and the positives. Weave internet/social media concerns into overall safety discussions throughout childhood and into the teen years.

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What Parents Should Do

Communication is a two-way street

Above all, listen, be supportive, and have an open mind. Ask kids what they think is reasonable and what they think being safe means. What do they think about “digital reputation management?” Come up with rules together.


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Discuss CIVILITY for every venue, not just for the Internet

Everyone must go beyond just being concerned about ourselves – our actions also have consequences that affect others. Discuss how they can cope with and/or help others related to harassment/cyberbullying/online drama. This includes the apps that promote anonymous posting of information (YikYak, Secret, etc.). Ask kids how they would handle reading a negative or nasty post about themselves.

Try not to overreact when issues come up

You want your kids to come to you when something bothers them and/or they don’t know what to do. The number one reason kids don’t talk to their parents is the fear their technology will be taken away. Try to discuss the problem and develop a solution together.

Have fun with your kids online!

Ask for their help in learning about what’s hot and what’s not in the digital world. Let’s face it – they know more than we do.


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Be the bad guy

Many kids want to disconnect at times, but feel pressure to always be connected. Tell them they can blame you when they need a break from being “plugged in”.

Model the good behavior you want to see in your kids

Don’t text and drive, don’t constantly check your cell phone during dinner, and take breaks from the internet yourself. Establish times when the entire family unplugs together!

Stay educated!

Right now apps like YikYak that promote the anonymous posting of information are popular. However, it will be something else within a matter of months, if not weeks! Connectsafely.org is a great place to stay updated on what may be the next hot thing. You can also check our website nationalcac.org for more information as well.

NCAC thumbABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Jackson MS, ALC, has worked on the behalf of at-risk children for over 20 years. She is currently the Community Education Program Manager and a Therapist for the National Children’s Advocacy Center. She also worked as the Education Director and the Director of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Huntsville for almost six years.