5 Points About Social Media Every Parent Should Discuss

How to have a conversation about social media before setting up an account


Thirteen seems to be the magic age when most social media sites like Facebook and Instagram say it is acceptable to open an account. While a number of parents allow their kids to have accounts prior to 13, there are still parents that abide by the rules.

If you are contemplating allowing your 13-year-old to have a social networking account, there are five things you need to discuss with her beforehand.

These discussion points have been called the “5 P’s” of social networking. Be sure to incorporate them into your discussion before your child sets up an account.

Passwords. Talk to your child about setting up a strong password for her account. It should be a password that her friends and classmates could not easily guess. In other words, she should not use anything that someone would identify with her like her birthday, her pet’s name, her favorite sport and so on.

It is also essential to discuss guidelines regarding passwords. For example, many parents require their kids to share their passwords with them. Not only does this give you access to her account to view what she is doing if necessary, it also allows you important access should she have an issue with social media that requires adult intervention.

If your child balks at giving you the passwords to her accounts, she may not be ready to use social media responsibly.

Meanwhile, stress that she should never, under any circumstance, give her passwords to a friend or allow anyone access to her account.

Privacy. Discuss the privacy setting of each social media account with your child. Together determine how private you want the account to be. For instance, on Instagram some parents prefer that their child have a private account.

With this privacy setting, only people who are friends with your child can see what she posts. Additionally, people cannot automatically follow your child. They have to send a request and be accepted by your child before they can follow her.

Likewise, also Facebook offers privacy settings. For instance, you can decide if posts can be viewed by “friends,” “friends of friends” or “everyone.” With minors, it is usually recommended that they keep their posts limited to “friends.”

Be sure to review the privacy settings on your child’s smartphone too, especially if your child will post from her phone instead of a computer or tablet. For example, review your child’s settings in photos to be sure any type of geotagging is turned off. Photos are sometimes imbedded with tracking data that allows people to know where the photos were taken. This makes it easier for predators and bullies to find your child’s location or places she frequents.

Photos. Outline what types of photos and videos your child is allowed to share online.

Be sure she knows what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. It also is a good idea to discuss how different elements of a picture can give away important personal information. For instance, a photo in front of her house that shows the house number, gives people a clue about where she lives. Or, a photo in her spirit wear from school lets people know what school she attends.

Also, talk to your child about taking and posting selfies sparingly and the importance of avoiding oversharing. There also are settings on some social media sites, like Facebook, that allow your child to approve any photo that someone wants to tag her in before she is tagged. By using this feature, your child will have some control over what photos have her name in them. This does not, however, prevent other people from posting photos of her online.

People. Establish in advance whom your child can befriend on social media. Some parents prefer that their kids do not accept friend requests from anyone they do not know. Also, talk to your child about how they will interact with people online. In other words, be sure they have a clear understanding of what they can post and cannot post.

Additionally, it is important to discuss what it means to like, comment and share other posts. Be sure your child knows that liking or commenting on a post that is inappropriate or contains cyberbullying or public shaming, sends a message to others about your child as well.

Everything your child does online will impact how others view her. Remind her that colleges and potential employers often check social media before making decisions. She only has one online reputation and she should do everything she can to protect it.

Priorities. Discuss ahead of time what your child hopes to accomplish with her social media account or how she wants to use it. Simply wanting an account because everyone else has an account is too simple of an answer. Talk about the positive aspects of social media. For instance, it can connect her to people, inform her about what is going on around her and be used as a tool for communicating about things that are important to her. But it also can create drama, bullying and heartache if not used properly.

Remind her that once she posts something online, even if she deletes it, countless others have already seen it. Once something is on social media, even if only for a few seconds, she has lost control of the message. As a result, jokes and sarcastic remarks are frequently taken out of context and can lead to cyberbullying or public shaming if she is not careful. Make it a priority to keep posts positive and informative and to avoid social media when she is upset or angry.

Remind her too that it is never a good idea to post something personal or emotion-filled. These posts can be taken out of context and can lead to gossip and rumors. Any conflicts with friends should always be settled offline. Even posting subtle quotes about conflict or friendships can be misconstrued and should be avoided.

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