Social Media (Yes or No?)

Knowing when to allow a child to enter the social media culture can sometimes be a difficult decision. All studies and polls agree that social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) are teenagers’ preferred method of connecting with friends, even when they are sitting in the same room together.

If your child is under the age of thirteen, social media’s end user agreements have made it easy for you. Children under thirteen are not allowed to have social media accounts. Sure you could still set up their account, but you run the risk of sending the wrong message to your children: Rules don’t matter. If the website’s rules don’t matter, why should your family’s rules for the internet matter?

If you think your child is mature enough to have a social media account, you now have to take on the issue of cyberbullying and digital reputation. The permanency and unforgiving nature of social media is a difficult concept for children to understand. Your child must understand that every post, picture, or comment made on the internet is permanent. Inappropriate posts or photos can have lifelong consequences, damaging lives and reputations forever. The recent arrest of two Florida girls whose relentless cyberbullying drove twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick to suicide is a fresh reminder of this. Before you child presses the send button, they should be asking themselves, “Would my Mom or Dad be okay with this post?” Is your child a High School student? Did you know that a growing number of college admission officers, as well as corporate recruiters use social media to screen applicants?

Teach your child these two simple but critical concepts: First, you treat others online the way you want to be treated offline. Second, everything posted online is a permanent reflection of you. Don’t post anything that you would not be comfortable with your parent reading.