Untrending: Review social media use for youth

Each family will have a unique view.

It is September and there is a quickening in the air carried by the subtle changing of the season as summer sidles out the door, leaving shorter days and cooler temperatures behind.

Forests and gardens are thirsty for rain. The leaves are poised to fall. Children of all sizes lug shiny new backpacks to school, some for the first time.

After the long and lazy days of summer, routine is re-established.

Along with making sure your kids have everything they need to get back into their school routines without too many bumps, September is a great time to review expectations and guidelines around good social media use for youth. Each family will have a unique view on what is appropriate social media engagement, but there are some good general guidelines to follow.

First and foremost, you want your children to be safe online.

Hopefully, before putting that smartphone or tablet into your child’s small hand you’ve provided them with comprehensive Internet safety tips. If not, the RCMP offers an excellent set of resources on their website, www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

Beyond Internet safety, though, it is important that your children are mature enough understand not only how to use social media, but also understand the consequences of what they post and share online, and what some of that content might mean to them if it were made public, even years later.

If you’ve chosen to let your child join a social media network, local mom, and one of the founders of The Social Chicks, Rebecca Vaughan offers these tips:

• Insist on knowing the passwords to your children’s accounts, even if you don’t check them. No “secret accounts” allowed.

• Follow or friend your child from your own accounts and check your account frequently.

• Respect their space online. Don’t embarrass them by frequently commenting, tweeting, posting or tagging them.

• Talk about what is appropriate to post and what is not and be sure to model this in your own posting habits.

• Make sure they understand the permanence of what they post – even if they delete something, it is never truly gone forever.

• Talk about cyberbullying and what it means to be bullied, and what it means to be a cyberbully.

• Ensure there are consequences for inappropriate online behaviour and follow through.

Another aspect to consider in preparing your children for the online environment is the notion of digital citizenship. Social media leaders like Sean Smith and Angela Crocker discuss digital citizenship as a framework for schools and parents.

Says Crocker, “To raise good digital citizens, parents and teachers must guide youth to understand privacy, copyright, document control, social media etiquette, and many more digital life skills. Just as we teach them to obey traffic signs, children and teens need age-appropriate guidance to learn how technology fits at home, at school, and, eventually, in the workplace.”

In raising digital citizens, we must be good digital citizens ourselves. Set an example for youth by engaging in respectful online dialogues, exercising good judgment in regard to privacy, and developing a healthy online-offline balance.

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at vickimcleod.com.

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