Technology and social media have become an integral part of my family life – each of my three children have their own tech devices and regularly use YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat. They also watch me using my smartphone daily to run my business. My parent coaching company depends heavily on social media, and I use my phone constantly to connect with clients and brands throughout the day.
The rise of social media has introduced another layer of parental responsibility that never used to exist – we now must constantly monitor and guide our children’s online activities in order to ensure social media remains a resource, and not a risk. With my children, I’ve introduced a number of family rules regarding technology and social media. Here are my top tips on monitoring your kids’ online activity:
Create Ground Rules
Technology is a privilege, and not a guaranteed right. If your kids are old enough to type in the password to gain access to a device (hello, two year old!), they are old enough to understand there are rules to follow in order to earn the privilege of using the device. The consequence of not following the rules is a technology ban. Here are some examples of basic ground rules:
- Everyone must ask permission before using their device, or downloading a new app.
- Everyone must stick to their daily time limit.
- Cell phone usage is allowed only at certain hours in the evening, or after homework has been completed.
- There cannot be any phones at the table or driving – the world is an awesome place, look up and around and take it in!
- Anytime a new screen name is created, it must not be personal and social media biographies must not give away too much personal information (like age or location).
- We all have equal access to each other’s phones and know each other’s passwords. If we set an example that we have nothing to hide, we expect the same in return from our children.
- We must be able to connect their social media platforms, emails and cell numbers to Bark, an online monitoring tool (see below).
Teach Kids about Online Dangers & Reputation
Having an open line of communication is crucial the minute your kids start using the Internet. You need to remind your children constantly that most people online are complete strangers and will not care about their best interests. You may feel like you’re scaring your kids when talking to them about the dangers, but it’s better for them to be scared than to be unaware.
Also, my husband and I always talk to our boys about how quickly information can be shared online. We remind them to think twice before posting to their feeds – an inappropriate message or image can be seen by their friends, a teacher or future college administrator. What goes online, stays online forever.
Use Filtering Software*
While we can warn our kids all we want about the dangers of the internet, we also have to take preventive measures to avoid these dangers. The GIT Mom approved Internet safety solution is Bark. Bark is an advanced technology platform that proactively alerts parents to dangers including cyber-bullying, online predators, sexting, depression and suicidal thoughts. You just need to connect your child’s social networks, cell number, and email accounts to their system. Bark will then start monitoring their online behavior, and will send alerts by text or email when it detects potential threats or signs of danger so you can review an issue, along with recommended actions on how to handle the situation. Bark provides peace of mind and is an empowering preventive tool for parents. It also allows you to build trust with your children as you are not invading their privacy by reading their phones when they are not watching! Bark is $9 per month ($99 paid annually) per family (unlimited children and connections). You can sign up here.
Get To Know Your Children’s Online Friends
Think of social media the same way you would think of your kid’s school yard – you would always try to meet their friends, talk to their friends parents, and scope them out before asking them over for a playdate. Apply this same rule to social media – be aware of the kind of sites your child visits and who they are interacting with. Remember social media is meant to be social! Take it as an opportunity to be involved and connect with your kids and their friends. Keeping tabs on who your children follow can be important to preventing an inappropriate user from violating privacy or harming your child.
Also, always ask lots of questions – when I walk into my son’s bedroom and he’s FaceTiming I gently ask, “Who are you talking to?” I’ve also been bold and squished my face into the screen to say, “Hi!” My husband and I follow our children’s social media feeds as well as their friends and every day I ask the boys “what are you watching, who are you following, what’s cool that you’ve seen.” Get talking!
Get to Know The Technology
It is every parent’s responsibility to be familiar with the platforms that your kids are using so that you can better understand what the heck they’re spending so much time on, not to mention learn about any potential issues associated with them. Knowledge is power! Possessing knowledge about the apps and understanding social circles makes you more accessible to your child and less of a fuddy duddy. For example, I am not on SnapChat because it doesn’t suit my business, but Daddy Heidelberger joined just to monitor our teenager’s activity on the app. Get on social media mom and dad, even if you don’t want to!
Social media can be a great resource if used correctly and monitored carefully. As a parent it is your responsibility to educate your children on the realities of technology and social media, and advise them on how to conduct themselves appropriately. We are fortunate that there are monitoring tools like Bark which empower us on our parenting journey, however, this must be coupled with open communication and knowledge! Get on it!
*This blog post is sponsored by Bark.