By Amit Mehta Health & WellnessBe-‘friending’ your kids and understanding your child’s relationship with social media

Be-‘friending’ your kids and understanding your child’s relationship with social media

It is an increasingly competitive world out there, full of stressors and challenges. It can be especially hard for young people to cope with the pressures like schoolwork and bullying, but modern kids face the new dilemma of having to navigate these problems in the age of social media.

Social media and the internet in general, while a great resource for children for learning and socializing, can also become an emotional landmine for young minds. Bullying on social media is on a worrying upswing. Even parents aware of how social media works do not necessarily understand how their children and their peers are interacting on various platforms.

It is important to trust your child with their online behavior, but it is also crucial to understand that just because your child knows how the internet works, it does not mean he or she is emotionally equipped to handle it. Children can often be exposed to online content that is inappropriate or something they are not emotionally prepared for. New platforms like Hike and Snapchat, networking sites and video games are cropping up every day. How do you, as a parent, keep track and make sure that your child has a healthy relationship with the internet?

There are tons of software and apps that let you keep a tab on your child’s online activities. While some of these tools are important, most of them have loopholes that can be exploited. Also, software cannot prepare your child emotionally for the complexities of the internet. Only you can.

Firstly, do not go into a panic and put your kids on lockdown! Confiscating phones or excessively monitoring their every move will only discourage your child from being open with you. Remember, the internet is a vastly helpful tool to help them learn, broaden their horizons and shape their personalities.

Communicate with them. Make sure your child is comfortable enough with you that he or she can share their account information with you. The key is to make sure they understand that this is not because Mom and Dad do not trust them, but to make sure they are safe. A healthy discussion environment also means your kid can approach you if they are being bullied or approached by strangers online.

Remember, monitoring is necessary. Constant spying is not. When your child shares their account information with you, reciprocate that trust. Do not post embarrassing information on their or your own social media pages. You might think an embarrassing baby picture of your child is hilarious, but remember they have a right to privacy too.

Have a chat with your kids about the permanency of content on the internet. It is important to let them know that words and pictures are never truly ‘gone’ from the internet and their online actions can have an impact on their future college admissions and job interviews. Let them know that a little selfie-awareness can go a long way.

Finally, relate to them on their level. The playgrounds have now gone online but that does not mean you cannot hang out with them there. Do you share a passion for cooking with your child? Start a recipe blog together! Let them teach you how to play a new game on the Playstation. There are always lazy Sunday mornings to watch endless funny cat videos.

Final tips:

Do not snap! Chat. Setting boundaries for online behavior after a heart-to-heart will always work better than enforcing them outright.

Make sure your child understands why certain restrictions exist and why they are necessary.

Learn about new apps and websites and stay informed.

And, lastly: Lead by example! Remember, what you post on your own social media will shape your child’s online behavior.

When it comes to online behavior, sometimes it is important to be a parent to your child and sometimes, their friend. However, there is no reason you cannot find a happy balance between the two.

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