Kids these days, what are they on about? Snapchat, Instafame, Hashtag, Subtweet. Ask any 11-year-old with a cell phone and they can tell you exactly what’s happening in the world of social media. Ask their parents and you might receive an out-of-date summary of the dangers of sending email.
The reality is, for most parents, your children are going to know more about smartphones and apps before you have a chance to learn how to pronounce them. This can be scary. Scary because almost 1 in 10 Canadian teens say they have been victims of online bullying on social networking sites. Cyberbullying tends to start as early as eight or nine, and increases in severity through the teenage years.
How can you help your child safely navigate the online world? Get a clue. The best thing you can do is to take some time to understand the social sites and apps your children are using. You don’t need to become Instagram famous or a Vine expert (although some parents have nailed it: Batdad). But, there are many places you can look for help. For example, Snapchat, a picture sharing app, has published a parents’ guide to Snapchat. Get a friend, co-worker, niece or nephew to show you the ropes. The more you can grasp about how certain social sites work, the easier it will be for you to have a conversation with your children about what they’re up to online.
That brings us to tip 2: talk to your kids about their social media behaviour. Don’t wait until you suspect a cyberbullying issue. Having open lines of communication about online practices is essential to preventing and dealing with cyberbullying. Much like you talk to your children about who their friends are, who they played with at recess, and what activities they like at school, you should ask them about who they’re sending a snapchat to, who they follow on Instagram, and what their favourite apps are.
The best of both worlds is to ask your child to explain to you how to use a social app. Have them show you how to send a message on Kik, or teach you about the best filters for your selfies. Ask for their help or opinion on using your own social media, and start a conversation from there. Your kids just might enjoy teaching you something they know so much about.
If your kids are just diving into the world of social media with their first phone or social accounts, consider creating a technology contract. Create terms about when, where and how they use their technology. Put in a condition about openly communicating with you, and sign it together. You can find samples of these online.
Unfortunately, for most parents it may be too late to get ahead of the game and become Youtube sensations, but the more you learn, the easier it will be to help your children navigate the ever-changing online world.by:Renee Goncalves from Canadian Safe Schools