With summer right around the corner, children will have even more time to access their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.). Students often use these accounts to express opinions, thoughts and emotions that would not typically be expressed in normal conversation – expressions that often would be unacceptable to peers and adults. Parents have the right and responsibility to monitor their childrens’ communication through these accounts.
In the world of social media, students often are uncensored and unaware of their obligations to be respectful and to recognize boundaries. The first step to social media usage for teens is proper monitoring, especially for middle schoolers:
- Be their “friend” on Facebook and check their status and postings regularly (some children create more than one account to “hide” information)
- Follow them on Twitter
- Know your child’s passwords
- Many telephone companies allow you to forward your child’s messages to your phone, or you can check on their phone. But keep in mind that messages on their phone can be deleted
Social media can also be used to issue a cry for help, as social media can provide an easier forum to express intense feelings. If you or your child notice a post or communication that seems like a cry for help, please investigate and provide the support you feel is needed.
Teach your child social media etiquette. Know how and when your child uses social media. (Do they use it on the computer or through their phone?)
Monitoring and teaching are important steps in the process, but they can’t always prevent cyber bullying. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, or that another child is being bullied, or you notice messages of distress, it is important to address it as soon as possible. This may include contacting the parent of the child or the school. School officials do not monitor social media, and are not usually aware of these issues unless parents or students provide the information.
The second step is using the information you find in monitoring their account to address social media etiquette and safety:
- Help children keep private information private. They should not share their full names, phone numbers, or addresses.
- Help your child establish privacy settings, and talk to them about why it is important for them to only “friend” people they actually know.
- Explain that all information posted on the internet is permanent, and they should only post things that they are comfortable with everyone seeing. This includes, but is not limited to, their friends, potential colleges, and future employers.
- Remind them that anything posted on the internet can NOT be taken back. Even if it is deleted.
- Talk to your kids about cyber bullying and the ramifications of the words they use and images they post.
Keep the lines of communication open and share your thoughts and feelings about the appropriate use of social media with your child and ask for his or her feelings. Tell them you are going to check their accounts, and they may feel like you are “spying.” But it is OK for you to check on them. Do it anyway!
Danielle Scott is 7th Grade Counselor and Bill Coram is the school psychologist at Bailey Middle School. This article originally appeared in the Bailey Middle newsletter and is reprinted here with permission. If you have questions or concerns, you may contact them at the Bailey Middle School Counseling Department, or contact your child’s school.
Davidson United Methodist Church will host a program this Thursday, May 31, on “Shedding Light on Bullying and Suicide Prevention.” It’s at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel on South Main Street. More info here.