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Tips for Starting Kids out on Social Media

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Posted On : 2016-09-20 12:02:05
Your Facebook feed is filled with adorable photos of your friends’ kiddos. You open Instagram and see photo after photo of babies cuddling with puppies, toddlers finger painting their bedroom walls and preschoolers joyously coating their cute little faces with ice cream. Okay, so YOU put your child on YOUR social media channels. But what if your young child is begging you to let them create a social media profile (eek!)? Scroll on for five tips on what to discuss with them and how to keep them safe before they sign up for that Insta account (if you let ’em!).

1. Talk about what social media is and why your child wants to use it. Very young children don’t actually get what social media is. Your two-year-old sure loves hitting “post” when she plays with your phone, but she doesn’t really know what she’s doing. As she moves into the preschool and kindergarten years, it’s likely that she’ll know how social media works. But, this doesn’t mean she actually understands it, why people use it or the dangers of social media. Before you even think about giving your child her own account, ask her to tell you what she thinks social media is, who can see her posts and why she wants to use it. Have this be an ongoing discussion throughout your child’s upbringing.

2. Open a parent-sponsored account. Your four-year-old wants to share her finger paintings with the world. She’s absolutely in love with art and wants everyone to know it. You’re going to post her paintings anyway, so now might be the time to start your child’s own account. No one’s saying that she should be allowed to post anything herself — a preschooler is way too young. But, she can have her own account that you manage for her. That said, creating an account for little Ali the artist also means protecting her privacy. Don’t use her real name (or, at the very least, don’t use her full name) as her profile name, and never add any identifying info in the bio or posts. In other words, avoid posting the city or state where you live, her birthday, her preschool’s name or anything personal about your family. And whether you’re creating an Insta profile or Facebook account, definitely set it to private.

3. Make family the only social media friends allowed. Social media is, by its nature, well — social. But it’s that aspect that brings a lot of the dangers of social media into your home. Keep major tabs on any followers, “friends,” “likers” and anyone else that your child might at some point interact with online. Or, you could make life easier and limit your child to following and being followed by family members and close family friends only. Can she follow Grandma? Yep. What about Aunt Alice? Sure. But, when some rando on Instagram tries to follow her? That’s a big ol’ no.

4. *Lots* of supervision from the get-go. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a toddler or a tween, every child needs close supervision while they’re online. Put the “mommy watching over your shoulder” rule into effect early on, and keep it that way. Yes, that means your teen needs to turn over their social media passwords so that you can do random checks on their profiles… from the inside of their account, not just as one of their friends or followers. Explain that supervision is a basic right that you’ll keep as a parent until they’re 18, so that your little ones (even if they’re not so little) don’t think they’ll outgrow your need to check in.

5. Stick to values and instincts. When it comes down to it, no one can tell you what the “right” thing to do is in this area — social media is such new parenting territory, parents are just learning as they go and trying to do the best they can. If it seems like every day you’re reading that there’s a new, and (of course) better style of parenting to follow, you aren’t wrong. Some parents feel completely comfortable with their seven-year-old posting pics on Instagram, while others still won’t allow their 17-year-olds to do so. You know that safety is key, and you have your child’s best interest in mind. Now, add in your own personal (or family) values to the mix and make the decision that feels right to you.

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