Worried about kids and social networks? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat are among the most public of online spaces. It helps to recall that a little education can go a long way towards teaching children how to behave and act more appropriately on these sites.
As the author points out in new book The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks, many popular services suggest that kids be 13 years of age or older before registering. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until young adults reach their teenage years to provide appropriate supervision and guidelines. Following is just one of many possible social media workshops for kids that teachers, parents and other caring adults can use to educate sprouts about these sites.
Start with Basic Training
A good place to start, is to use one of the social networks designed for kids that has safeguards in place, such as filtering and strict rules against forbidden activities. These options provide a good way to get a feel for the types of actions one can engage in.
Whatever social network you choose to start sprouts off with, you need to educate children up-front about communications basics. These include what these platforms are good for and why people use them. Begin by spending 15 minutes showing the ins and outs of your social media account.
Move on to More Formal Discussions
Kids and adults use social networks differently. Open the discussion by asking tots, tweens and teens why they want to be on social networks, and share with them some of your own motivations for utilizing them. It’s imperative to discuss the different types of content that can be shared through such platforms, e.g. text, videos, audio and photographic images.
Questions to Ask
- What types of communication do you think social networks are best for?
- What kind of information do you hope to get via and share over social networks?
- What kind of information is appropriate to share, and what isn’t?
At the crux of all social networking is sharing. Talk about what makes social networks effective tools for interaction, how people commonly utilize them and best practices when doing so — including what to know about how and why these companies offer their services for free. In short, spend another 15 minutes having a conversation about all aspects of social networks, before moving on to the following step.
Review the Pitfalls
You don’t want to focus your entire conversation on the dangers of social networks, but at the same time, it’s also important to highlight what can go wrong on these platforms as a way to encourage proper behavior. Discussion topics may include, but are not limited to:
Discuss what it is, and what to do when you encounter inappropriate behavior online.
Kids’ personal information is the most important asset that they have. Educate them as to why they must work hard to protect it.
Learn how to spot fraudulent content on social network services, whether it’s Twitter DMs or fishy status updates on Facebook, and potential consequences of falling prey to these schemes.
As a way to impart the permanence of information, go ahead and Google yourself (chances are your students or kids have already done so) and talk about the results that show up. It’s the perfect illustration of how much of what appears online tends to stay there forever, impact public perception and is not something you can always control any longer.
Setup an Account Together
When you’re ready to get kids setup on social networks, take steps to configure an account together. Work together on establishing proper privacy settings, and discuss each one and what they mean. In other words, walk children through the process, providing insight and guidance all the way. This should be the last part of your meeting, and a crucial step to take, once you think they are ready (and you’re ready) to setup an account.
Teachers, educators and parents may also wish to remember the following tips:
Go Straight to the Source
Many major social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Google+ offer resource guides for families and parents, which include explanations of the services, descriptions of how to use key features, and specific discussion topics for adults and kids. It’s recommended you utilize them to familiarize yourself with the basics.
Be There for Them
At the end of the conversation, kids need to know that they can come to you with ANY questions or concerns. While your job as a teacher or parent is to be an educator and guardian first, it is important that they see you as a partner in online explorations. Failure to do so runs that risk that they’ll work to educate themselves without your knowledge and they won’t come to you if something is wrong.
Respect Kids’ Boundaries
Once children up and running, you need to let them spread their wings. When they start, you may want to like or comment on posts where appropriate, but quickly taper off this behavior and let them establish online relationships on their own terms, without constant reminders that caregivers are able to see everything that they’re doing online.