Parenting rules for social networking sites for children

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Not surprisingly the first topic that was discussed was “Rules for social networking sites for children.”

I have outlined the rules that can keep you as a parent stress free and your child safe while interacting on social networking sites:

  • Keep it age appropriate. Ensure that your children are only on sites that are age appropriate. Explain to them the dangers of interacting with people on cyber space that might be potentially dangerous. You could also sit with your child and show him examples or cases of children who have been harmed as a result of not being on an age appropriate site.
  • Sit with them and understand the social networking sites they are using. Children through their own curiosity combined with their peers knowledge are more upto date about the latest sites and using them without detailed knowledge of the social networking site’s age restriction, privacy settings, demographics and what kind of conversations and interactions the site is largely used for. As parents it is important to stay abreast of the social networking sites and whether they are appropriate for your children. Can your child be approached more easily on a particular site by cyber bullies or other harmful adults?
  • Understand that children relate to social media as an extension of themselves. For this generation the line between real life and cyber life has become very blurred. As parents we have to educate our children about the correct behaviour on cyber space, teach them the right values of how they must present themselves on this space. However as parents we have to also understand that this generation is born into an environment that has deep roots into the cyber world and your children don’t necessarily see it as separate to themselves as you might see it. So instead of nagging them about its usage, create certain mutually agreeable boundaries around the time and reasons for usage of the social media sites.
  • Respect their privacy. After you have set the boundaries, discussed the pros and cons of each social networking site and monitored your child’s cyber behaviour it is important to let go. When you feel your child is matured enough and has been following good cyber behaviour it is important to allow him his ‘space’. Trust is a value you need to inculcate in yourself and your child.
  • Keep the communication lines open. If they are being cyber bullied or they themselves have made a wrong choice, they should be able to approach you without feeling like they will be admonished. Curiosity can sometimes land them into grave danger. As parents it is important to lay the boundaries and rules, but it is equally important to understand that these boundaries and rules will be stretched and broken. Comfort your child by saying that you have implicit trust in him but sometimes things can go wrong consciously or otherwise. In any scenario he must know that he must come to you for help and you will be there for him always.
  • Cyber footprint. As parents we are a couple of decades ahead in years and experience. Children might not necessarily be able to envisage themselves in college or professional life. You must sit down with your child and explain that every post of a site, every blog, every imprint they have created on cyber space will remain there. The quickest way for anyone to know more about anyone else is by putting his name on a search engine and it draws up his entire impressions, activities, photos on the internet. So explain to your child, that any inappropriate post on a social networking site can literally jeopardize his entire future.

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