Finding ways to help kids use social media seems almost unavoidable in this day and age. When you decide to let your kids loose on Facebook and Twitter is up to you as a parent. Personally, I would wait as long as possible. Still, finding ways to help kids use social media weighs on my mind, mainly because I have a sister much younger than myself.
1. No Strangers
Okay, so many strangers on social media may be harmless. A lot of people reach out randomly, which I find sweet, but it isn't great for teens. One of the most important ways to help kids use social media is to make them execute stranger danger with precision. This means private Twitter accounts, private Instagram, and no random ads on Facebook. Until they are older and wiser, social media should be restricted to known friends only.
2. Join School Networks
Joining school networks is handy for a couple of reasons. First, depending on the country you live in, it means schools can see posts. This is a great way for them to become aware of bullying. Second, it gives a degree of control over whom your kid adds. Want them to stick to kids their own age? Then let them know they can only add from their school network.
3. Hashtags for Education
The chances are, your teen is more likely to click through one of the many, many Belieber/Directioner hashtags that are out there. Aside from the tween infestation of Twitter, there are plenty of opportunities to learn. Help them explore hashtags from behind a private account. Ted Talks have great ones to start with. Top tip: avoid anything political. It's rarely an education, just loads of mud slinging.
4. Pro-active Learning
One of my favorite apps at the moment is Duolingo. It's helping me learn French! Even better, I can link it up to my Facebook and follow my friends' progress. This is a great way to encourage your kids to learn alongside each other. I'm not sure what other apps there are out there like this, but I do know that Duolingo is unlikely to be the only one.
5. Micro Volunteering
Micro volunteering has been a hobby of mine for a little while now. Some know it as 'Clicktavism,' but however you want to phrase it I think it is a positive thing. Kids from a certain age can get involved by blogging or by mentoring as a friend for those who are experiencing bullying. It is a great way for them to see the positive value of social media, rather than the many opportunities to save their latest progress on Flappy Bird. That is something I am completely guilty of right now.
6. No Notifications
Teenagers do not need notifications at all hours. You can approach this in a couple of ways. First, you could keep social media use to computers only. Alternatively, alter their apps settings so that notifications only arrive at a certain time. Or, set them so that they do not send push notifications at all.
If you do let your kids use social media, you need to establish a sense of trust. Let them know they can come to you if they have any problems. That way, if someone gives them grief, you are their first confidante. Give them some wiggle room to use accounts as they like, but do lay firm rules at the sane time. It's a nerve racking experience, but with a mutual sense of trust it can work.
As mentioned at the beginning, whether or not you want to let your kids use social media is up to you. Some feel it works best when you trust them, but with a little guidance there is no reason why it cannot be a positive thing! If you have teen experiences of social media or you are parenting one who does, how has it worked for you?