Helping Your Child Navigate Social Media

​​​​​​​​For many parents, helping their child navigate social media can be challenging. But with the right approach, parents can set positive examples for their kids and teach them how to use social media responsibly and respectfully.

Social media has many positive aspects. Students have more opportunities to socialize and communicate with their peers and family; however, the potential negative impact means parents need to be watchful and involved with their child’s online activities. Between cyberbullying, oversharing and giving into peer pressure, a child's misuse of a social network can turn into a serious problem. Here are five tips from Rockwood experts to help you keep your kids safe on social media.

1. Educate yourself about social media.

Todd Minichiello, coordinator guidance and counseling, recommends that parents take time to research and learn about the different social networks their children are using. Familiarizing yourself with popular social platforms will give you a better understanding of how each service works.

“Our students are using a variety of social media apps, including Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter,” says Minichiello. “But there are many social platforms out there, and it’s important for parents to understand the differences among them. Each one has different potential risks.”

2. Follow the conversations.

School Resource Officer Jen Werges, who is also a Rockwood parent, suggests that parents may also want to create their own profile on these sites and apps ​to experience the networks firsthand. “My own children know that I’m on social media, and I’m watching conversations in our school community.”

Make a point to check frequently your child's privacy settings on each social network. Social networks are constantly updating and changing their sites and apps, so you'll want to make sure your child's profile is as secure as it can be.

3. Establish an age limit.

When deciding what age you'll let your kids use social media, keep in mind that most social networks require users to be 13 or older to create an account. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents companies from collecting personal information about children under the age of 13 without their parents' permission.

4. Talk to your kids about the consequences of social media.

There is no such thing as internet privacy or anonymity, and it’s important for teens to understand that once posted – forever published, no matter what they hear from their friends. Many kids don't realize the possible dangers that come with using social media. They tend to underestimate how easily accessible their information is and can forget that others are watching their online activity.

"Often, parents forget to talk about how pictures, comments and social interactions could impact their child’s future," says Dr. Lisa Counts, assistant superintendent supervision of schools. She suggests discussing real-life situations in which social media can pose harm, like stories in the news about cyberbullying.  By talking to your kids about the danger signs of social media, they will more likely think twice before posting a photo or sharing their locations with others online.

5. Nurture your relationship.

Establishing a set of guidelines or rules is a great way to instill positive social media habits in your child. For example, set a time limit for how long your child spends on social media during the week. You could also set specific times for you and your child to go online together and practice social media safety.

Dr. Terry Harris, executive director student services, notes that it’s important to make sure your teen feels empowered to make good decisions without having to hide from you. “Your child needs to know that he or she can always reach out for hel​p. As a parent, you are there to guide and support them in making good decisions online.”​