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Spend hours scrolling on Twitter when you should be helping kids with their homework? Waste time taking photos and uploading them to Facebook rather than enjoying the moment with your family? It’s safe to say you’re not alone, but these habits could be copied by your children.
Whether you like it or not, your kids are probably going to want to be on social media as soon as they find out their friends are. And although most social networks have a minimum age requirement of 13, kids need to be learning about healthy usage of social media long before that. And its starts at home.
So how can you - as parents - ensure you’re setting a good example for them?
Keep in mind how you use social media.
CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting said parents can set an example through their own use in terms of how they behave online, what they share and how much time they spend using social media.
Think about how you use it, how often you’re on it and whether you’d be happy for your child to do the same. If not, readjust the time and manner in which you use social media accordingly.
An NSPCC spokesperson agreed, saying: “A parents’ activity online can influence what their children do and make it more difficult for them to introduce rules. As every photo or video of a child uploaded creates a digital footprint which can follow them into adult life, we encourage parents to be cautious when it comes to posting these on social media.”
Create a family agreement.
Creating a family agreement together can be a great way to start a conversation with your whole family about how (and when) you all use the internet, advises Maithreyi Rajeshkumar, from internet safety resource Childnet.
By having these conversations early on you can come to agreements together about what is right for your whole family.
Discuss together how to behave in a positive way when online at home, at school, work or at a friend’s house. As your child grows up, you may want to revisit these agreements, as the networks that young people use at a young age can be quite different to those they use once they’re older.
To put this into practice, Bunting advises sitting down with your family and agreeing house rules on where, when and how long family members can go online. You could also set screen-free zones such as the dinner table and make sure you all stick to them.
Talk about your own social media use.
Don’t be afraid to discuss how you’ve felt about social media since you started using it, what you’ve witnessed, and times where perhaps you haven’t used it in a healthy way. “Discuss times when you’ve seen inconsiderate behaviour online and discuss the blurred line between uploading and sharing content because it’s funny or might get lots of likes versus the potential to cause offence or hurt,” says Bunting.
An NSPCC spokesperson recommends the TEAM approach: Talk, Explore, Agree and Manage. “What that means is talking to your child about what they like to do online, exploring together the sites and games they use, agree boundaries of what’s okay and what’s not okay, and manage privacy settings to keep children safe,” she says.
Rajeshkumar from Childnet says creating this communication will encourage your child to open up when they start using it, “We often hear from young people who are worried about discussing an online issue that they are facing,” she says. “They might be worried they will get into trouble, think that their technology will be taken away or that the adults in their lives just won’t understand them. Reassure your child that they can turn to you no matter what.”
Reduce screen-time before they sign up to the apps.
Before your kids even sign up to social networks, it’s a good idea to set an example on how much screen-time is healthy by doing this with other digital technology such as TV, iPads or game consoles. This will then set a standard when they start signing up for apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. “It’s a good idea to give their eyes half an hour’s rest from the screen before bed,” advises Internet Matters.
Use practical resources.
There’s an app called Forest, which gives your kids an incentive to stay off their phone. The app lets kids grow a forest full of trees and the longer they leave their phone untouched, the bigger the forest grows. Why not do it as a family challenge and see whose forest can grow the biggest?
When setting your children up on social media, there are a few things you should take into account, advises Bunting:
:: Stay in tune: Know who your children are talking to through regular, honest and open conversations.
:: Educate yourself: We encourage parents to familiarise themselves with what apps are age-appropriate and educate themselves about the networks their child wishes to sign up to before they consider allowing them to have an account.
:: Block: It’s vital that you teach them how to block and ignore on social media should they feel uncomfortable and also remind them they can come to you should they come across any unwanted content.
:: Privacy: Talk to them about the importance of keeping their information private and they should never share their password, full name, address or school and they shouldn’t send images or use webcams with people they don’t know.
For more tips on social media www.internetmatters.org/advice/social-media/.