Maybe you resisted getting your child a cellphone or letting them go on Instagram and other social media sites. However, after you and your spouse split up, you wanted them to be able to talk, text and video chat with the parent they weren’t with. Maybe you wanted them to be able to share their vacation adventures and other activities with the parent who was back at home.
Before you knew it, they had their own phone number, an email address, Instagram and Facebook accounts and a TikTok app. Have you talked to them about staying safe on social media and with anything they do on their phone?
First, it’s essential to warn them about sharing personal information on the internet or with anyone they don’t know. Personally identifiable information (PII) includes their address, Social Security number and any information that can be used to identify (or locate) them. If they take part in online forums, such as on Reddit, they should never use their full name. They can use their first name and/or something else entirely.
Kids (and adults) need to be careful to use privacy settings on any social media account they have. These should be set so that their posts can’t be viewed by anyone they don’t know or allow to have access.
Photos can be a real source of trouble. Just as you probably don’t share photos that include other people’s kids without their permission, neither should your children. Kids also need to understand what photos or other content (including words) are inappropriate to send or even to have on their phone or computer if someone else sends them. Juveniles have been known to be arrested for sending or receiving what under the law is considered child pornography.
Kids also need to learn that photos are forever these days. A seemingly harmless photo they thought was taken in private could come back to haunt them.
Finally, cyberbullying is everywhere these days. When most of us were young, the school bullying ended when we got home. Now, bullying from schoolmates and strangers can follow a child or teen everywhere. Make sure that your child feels comfortable telling you if someone is bothering them.
It’s best when co-parents can agree on social media, computer and phone rules for their kids and that the rules are enforced consistently. You may even want to include these in your parenting plan.