​How to help our children be safe on social media

Mon, May 14, 2018

As parents and educators, we have done a great job on ‘Stranger Danger.’  We have taught our children to not to talk to strangers, not to get into a stranger’s car, and to report strangers who want to engage in a conversation or entice them into their car.  But, in the 21st Century, through social media, our young people are, in effect, inviting strangers into their lives and even worse, exposing themselves to many dangers, with long lasting effects.  Photos taken and posted stay out there in cyberspace.  A random act of naivety or stupidity will come back to haunt our young people, as news headlines frequently attest to. 

The School would never advocate banning social media; it is a part of every generation. Grandparents are just as avid users, keeping in touch long distance with family. If not already done, now is the time to have that crucial conversation to your child about the use and abuse of social media.

Some tips

  • Don't allow children younger than 13 on Facebook.  Although the age limit is 13, Facebook has no way to enforce the rule. That is where parents come in.
  • Check the privacy settings on your child's phone and apps. Disabling the location services on apps can keep predators from tracking their location.
  • Use monitoring apps such as Net Nanny and WebWatcher to track your child's social media behaviour. 
  • Talk to your children about the positive and negative ways to use social media, and set ground rules.
  • Stay educated.  Attend seminars offered.
  • Learn about the social media language that your children use in their chat rooms e.g. PIR, KPC. There are many websites that will increase your knowledge. 
  • Talk to other parents about what social media their children of similar ages are using. 

Conversation topics

  • What have you sent today that has the potential to be embarrassing or dangerous for you? Everything sent over the Internet or a mobile phone can be shared with the entire world, so it is important to use good judgment in sending messages and pictures and set privacy settings on social media sites appropriately.
  • How can you be safe using social media? Discuss what “good judgment” means and the consequences of poor judgment, ranging from minor punishment to possible legal action in the case of ‘sexting’ or cyberbullying.
  • How do you practise your values on social media? Discourage gossiping, spreading rumours, bullying or damaging someone’s reputation using texting or other tools.
  • Where are the privacy features? Ask to be shown where the privacy features are for every social media platform. The more private, the less likely inappropriate material will be received by your child, or sent to their circle of acquaintances.
  • When are you online? What social media are you using? Be sure you know where your kids are online: IM, Facebook, MySpace, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp etc. 
  • Who are your friends online? Have a policy requiring that you and your child “friend” each other.  This is one way of showing your child you are there, too, and will provide a check and balance system by having an adult within arm’s reach of their profile. This is important for children of all ages, including teens.

Resources for families