Families form the backbone of society.
Children are often the family members most impacted by social media.
In fact, statistics show that “72 percent of teens [use] Instagram daily [and] 96 percent of online American teens watch Youtube videos”.
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Increased social media usage amongst children sounds alarms.
They’re exposed to cyber bullying, develop poor self-esteem and have a negative body image.
Sure, social media helps families stay connected, encourages people to make a positive impact on the world and provides a numerous positive opportunities. However, my greatest concern as a social media manager and mother of three is the impact of social media on children and how this will ultimately affect society.
Parents play an integral role in protecting their children from the negative effects of social media. I believe that we can teach our children responsible social media use. It’s not easy by any means but it produces a worthwhile outcome.
Buy Your Child a Phone at the Right Age
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This is a sticky topic but it’s concerning to see an eight or ten year old child with a smartphone. Young children have not developed the right level of maturity and strong set of values to handle social media usage. Bill Gates never gave his children smartphones until they were 14 years old. I would say that somewhere between 14 and 16 may be the right age but it largely depends on the child’s maturity level.
It may be important for your child to have a phone so that you can keep in touch for safety reasons. Instead of buying a smartphone, you can buy a touch button phone (yes, those are still sold). Your child won’t be the cool kid in cool but who’s the boss, you or your child?
Monitor Phone Usage
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You give your child a smartphone and trust that he or she is mature enough to use it responsibly. Sometimes children need to be saved from themselves. However, you don’t want to seem overbearing. Here are some discreet ways that you can monitor your child’s social media usage:
- Teach your child to set limits and boundaries
- Check privacy settings consistently (but not in a routine manner that your child can easily follow and manipulate)
- Stipulate that an app can only be downloaded with your permission (you may want to stipulate terms of usage as well but that can also become too restricting for the child and lead to rebellion)
- Restrict screen time (Apple, for instance, has a screen time app)
Teach Your Child Good Values and Decision Making Skills
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There is a popular Bible verse that aptly describes the important role the community plays in child development. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). I’m not suggesting that you have a sit-down lesson with your child to teach core values and good decision making skills. These are things your child learns through observation and practical activities.
For instance, how do you teach your daughter to value her body, focus on her education, and not be swayed by boys (and men) who come her way? This is a hard lesson to teach but if you live a life that demonstrates this principle, your daughter will respect what you do and attempt to emulate you. Live a life of example, have hard conversations with your children and train your children well. Follow this principle and you won’t have to worry about your child’s social media usage.
Social media has the greatest impact on the most vulnerable in society- our children. You have a responsibility as a mother to help your child develop good social media habits. I am not perfect by any means. However, I try to follow the principle of Proverbs 22:6 and I have determined that I won’t give my children smartphones until they are mature enough for them. When that day comes, I will trust that they will make the right decision with their social media usage but I may monitor what they are doing occasionally. Embrace your responsibility and help your child become a responsible social media user.
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