Responsible Online Behavior (for parents!)
Parents today are raising children who have never known a world without social media. It’s a part of their daily lives; it’s practically a part of their DNA.
Though the internet is always available at their fingertips, parents can’t ignore their own contribution to the obsession. Just as parents model good manners, proper housekeeping, and conflict resolution, parents also have to model responsible online behavior and social media usage.
According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of American adults use at least one social media channel, and it’s not only the young adults: 80 percent of adults age 30-49 are on social media, along with 64 percent of those age 50-64. Adults, many of whom are parents, are posting selfies, complaining about work, and some adults even participate in vaguebooking: posting intentionally vague updates in hopes that friends will ask what’s going on. Not only that, but children see their parents checking the phone at a stoplight, in line at the bank, or even at the dinner table.
Here are four ways to model responsible smartphone and internet use for your children:
Don’t Check Your Device at Every Opportunity
If you pull out the smartphone at breakfast or when someone else is talking, it sends a message that it’s okay for your children to do that, too. Practice putting the “real world” first: if you’re spending time with someone, turn off your notifications and resist checking updates. Insist on a “no devices at the table“rule in your family.
Most importantly, never text or check social media while you’re behind the wheel of a car. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and another 391,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents. It’s estimated that at any given moment, there are 660,000 people using electronic devices while driving. Don’t let you or your children be among them.
Watch What You Post
Research indicated that “21% of parents admit that relationships with their children have been damaged as a result of them being seen in a compromising situation on social media.” This could include photos taken while under the influence of alcohol or while wearing revealing clothing. Remember, it’s not only your children who can see your pictures: their friends might also see your public posts, or your child and her friends could be looking at your profile together. This could set your child up to be teased about one of your photographs or updates.
Simply ask yourself: would I intentionally show this to my child? If not, don’t post it.
Children are also witnesses to a parent’s online disagreements. If they follow you on Facebook, or if you post public updates, they might read entire conversations where a heated argument turns to nasty name-calling. Remember, they don’t even have to see it online: has an online discussion ever gotten you so worked up that you turned to your spouse to vent about it in real life? Your children hear that, too!
It’s natural to get pulled into controversial discussions online, but do so in a way you’d want your child to emulate. It might be a good opportunity to have a talk with your child: if you are participating in a discussion that’s getting out of control, point out how unproductive it is to call names, and show how you shared research from a reputable source to politely and respectfully make your point.
Responsible internet usage means knowing what’s out there. You don’t want to overhear your child talking about a new app and think, “Oh, that sounds nice” without knowing what it actually is. Pay attention to trends and know what apps and sites your child and her friends are using.
Responsible Online Behavior
Talk with your children about what you expect from them, and model that behavior. Key points of that discussion include:
- What type of personal information should never be shared online.
- What types of pictures are appropriate to share.
- What to do if someone is bullying or threatening your child.
- What to do if your child receives a suspicious message from a stranger.
- When your child is allowed to use his device and when he is not.
- What her smartphone can be used for, and what it should not be used for.
Trustworthy Parental controls can help you set and enforce guidelines on your children’s devices. Keep your children and teenagers engaged and interested in real-world activities by limiting the hours they’re allowed to be online. Keep them safer by blocking certain apps and websites, and even entire categories of websites.
Encourage your children to use their online manners by modeling those manners in your own online life. The internet and smartphones may be part of daily life for the new generation and their parents, but they can be used safely and responsibly!