To protect children online you first need to really understand the platforms they're likely to use or are already using. Keep up-to-date on which are popular, ask them, their friends, other mums and Google. Learn as much as you can about each and every one. If you're unsure, try opening your own account and have a play around. Each platform has its own intrinsic dangers and worries and the only way to understand them, is to get informed.
Given the sheer volume of different devices and the connectivity options available, almost all of us are guilty of absentminded uploading. While we are adults have developed our 'filter' children have not, they rarely consider the implications of the content they are in effect linking themselves too... FOREVER! Whatever the content, get kids into the habit of thinking/reflecting before they post. According to Education On The Edge, we need to instill the strategy of: Read, Reflect, Decide. The process should ideally take around 30 seconds to one minute, as they reflect on what they will post/like/share etc.
Who hasn't posted something in rage, and then regretted it later? Venting and ranting do not go well with social media, and once you've hit 'post' there's no going back, your ramblings online and available worldwide for posterity. For this reason it's essential we teach our children to control their anger online. We need to teach them the necessity of stepping away from the keyboard and following the above strategy of Read, Reflect, Decide- BEFORE posting anything.
Children need to understand that things posted on social media are there for a very long time- usually forever! Something ill-thought through and uploaded or posted in haste- can mean repercussions for years down the line. We all know of someone who has lost a friend, a potential job or even admission to university through ill-advise posting. Don't be afraid to use these as examples either!
What might seem like an innocuous little ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ can actually be some of the most dangerous decisions a child can make online. They simply see it as nod to the friend who posted it, however others might find the views contained in the post shocking or insulting. Teach them to always read the content carefully and apply the Read, Reflect, Decide strategy BEFORE any like/retweet.
Warriors Need Not Apply
Keyboard warriors, take note! Arguing online- you rarely win, with hindsight you usually look pretty silly and everything you say is there for eternity. Really, does tackling someone on social media seem so attractive now?
Teach children no matter how great a response they might have in mind or how incensed by comments they might be, to just leave it alone. Guy Kawasaki, one of the world’s leading social media experts, recommends that never to exceed two replies to any heated discussion. Why? Because any more and it will most likely become negative and harmful.
Take the High Ground
Truly great social media practitioners leave their followers feeling warm and fuzzy. They mix inspiration, humour, warmth and great information into a blend of compelling updates to keep their followers continually coming back for more. Teach your kids to do the same. If they receive negative comments, simply ignore, or say, 'thanks for reading,' nothing shows maturity and grace, like taking the moral high ground.
Keep communication channels open and make sure children know they can always talk to you about anything online which makes them feel uncomfortable. Explain and discuss cyber-bullying and show them examples of children who have experienced the negative side of social media, (there's thousands out there, simply Google!).
If we want our kids to safely navigate social media and indeed life, we need to model the right behaviour. Children learn from the role models in their (online) life, and, as well as their friends, that's you too! Never rant or rave online, post positive content and try to always be kind to others.