How to Talk With Your Child About the Dangers of Social Media
Over 60 percent of 13-17 year olds have a social media account on at least one platform, according to a study by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Your child likely considers their smartphone or other devices integral to their social livelihood, spending hours on their social media apps. However, these online interactions come with risks. It’s important you talk with your child about inappropriate selfies, cyber-predators, cyberbullying, scams, fraud and online social etiquette. Here are some social media risks and dangers you should discuss with your child before they login:
Scams and Fraud
Social media is all about sharing information with others, however this information can sometimes fall into the wrong hands. Make sure that your child knows how to identify when a social media “friend” is asking intrusive and inappropriate questions. If anyone, through social media, inquires about phone numbers, birthdays, address, social security, family members’ full names, this is a red flag that they may be involved in a scam. Share with your children the real dangers of identity theft and make sure you have a foolproof service that can detect and protect your family from fraud. Additionally, help your child understand the importance of a strong password, as there are hackers on the internet that will attempt to log in or decrypt social media accounts. Teach your child how to create many hacker blockades, like secret questions and text notifications, so they can prevent others from gaining access to their sensitive information.
Bullying has moved from the school ground to online territories. Cyberbully is a common occurrence on social media apps, which can result in distress and depression in your child. Talk with your child about the power of words and images, and how they should only post content that is nice and appropriate. Create a communication plan with your child, in case they become a victim of cyberbullying. Let them know that you want to have an open communication system with them, so they can tell you if anything makes them feel uncomfortable. If you’re worried that your child is experiencing cyberbullying and isn’t telling you, consider using parental control apps to monitor their activity and interactions.
Nineteen percent of teens have “posted updates, comments, photos, or videos that they later regretted sharing.” Talk with your child about what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media and the consequences that can result from a lack of judgment. For example, inappropriate posts include selfies that have a sexual nature, information about their relationships with others, explicit language, mean-spirited comments and photos or video that reflect poor moral characters. Anything your child posts can be accessed by other students and shared with school personnel, future or current employers, college admission personnel and people that they normally wouldn’t share things with. Have them create a list, with you, about what is and isn’t appropriate to post, so they won’t impulsively share content.
While social media is mainly used to stay connected with friends, there are always strangers with ill-intentions that can skillfully gain access and communicate with your child. Seventeen percent of teens say they’ve had online encounters with strangers who have elicited fear or discomfort. Teach your child about online stranger-danger and explain that there are predators who may approach them through online forums or social media messaging.
While social media opens the door to many positive possibilities, it can also be a dangerous tool that has unintended consequences. The best way to make sure your child is safe from the online risks is to have an open and honest conversation with them. It’s important that your child knows both the good and the bad of social media.