I’ve heard some conversations between kids and parents recently that piqued my interest. I overheard that a local school had sent out a letter to parents warning them about the social media app called “After School.” This app allows students in a school to post anonymously in an open-forum style message board that any other student can view. The app specifically states that cyber-bullying is not tolerated, but other apps, such as Yik Yak, have been used in order to share personal information and humiliate others. To be fair, though, most users are only participating in order to share funny quotes, jokes, anonymous confessions, and other student-related scenarios with fellow students.
Sure, stuff like this sounds terrifying, but the real issue comes down to character and integrity. If your child has been raised in such a way as to have high moral values, then they will more than likely avoid bad internet behavior and seek out more innocent forms of communication within the varied social media landscape. However, as parents and adult leaders, we have a responsibility to discuss good social media practices before students reach the moment of decision.
This is a situation, much like conversations about sex, alcohol, language, movie choice, that can allow for sharing of values from one generation to the next, especially if those conversations are had early and regularly. Regardless of your family’s stance on these topics, conversation must happen. Simply saying “no” or “yes” to any or all of these topics will create a barrier for further conversation. Be open to questions and be thorough enough for nuance and different situations your child might find herself in.
Social media will find its way into your child’s life, much like sex, alcohol, language, and other media, whether it happens at home, at school, or at a friend’s house. Teaching your child how to behave while online, digital citizenship, is crucial in today’s world. Resources like IGuardian and Netsmartz will provide you and your child with the information you both need to make informed decisions about social media and internet interactions.
Take the time to read up on the latest social media apps. Have conversations with your child about how he uses the internet, and create a safe, open channel of communication where your child feels comfortable sharing with you without fear of a lecture or an angry outburst. In other words, you may not be able to hold back the tide, but you can help your child build a boat to ride the waves.
What social media outlets do you use? Does your child interact online? What sites or apps does she use? What are your fears regarding your child’s social media use? What resources have you used to try and alleviate that fear?