Along with those beautiful autumn colors and delicious pumpkin spice lattes comes another unintended result of cooler temperatures - more time spent indoors means more time on screens and social media.
So the question is: How can I help my child use social media in positive ways?
Because social media provides mostly instantaneous, often anonymous, and usually entertaining interaction and content, many kids may not recognize that with every click and swipe, they are creating an online presence that will stay with them for a lifetime and can impact their future.
This online presence is what’s known as a “digital footprint”, defined by Dictionary.com as “any online activity that can “leave a data trace on the Internet or on a computer or other digital device and can identify the particular user or device. Our online browsing habits are part of our passive digital footprint, created without our consent or knowledge, but our active digital footprint, especially on social media, can more easily be managed.”
In other words, kids need to learn positive online behaviors now, in order to contribute to a positive, professional digital footprint that colleges, employers, and others will be able to access later.
There are several things parents can do to help kids stay safe, while learning responsibility and good judgement.
Help your child learn to set limits and create boundaries for themselves and focus on helping children prioritize and follow through on the important stuff (school, sports and activities, exercise, meals, sleep) before focusing on social media or other online activities.
Encourage your child to think about everything they post as part of their permanent digital footprint. Challenge them to think about the people that might see their posts in the future – teachers, principals, future employers, and future romantic partners – not just people (friends and classmates) who see them now.
Keep a close eye on your child’s social media use. Familiarize yourself with the apps your child is using and be sure to check privacy settings on a regular basis. Depending on age and usage, consider requiring your child to get your permission before downloading apps.
Social media can be a powerful tool for your child, both now and in the future. And when building a digital footprint that will follow them throughout their lives, one of the best things our children can do is stop before they post and THINK:
T – Is it TRUE?
H – Is it HELPFUL?
I – Is it INSPIRING?
N – Is it NECESSARY?
K – Is it KIND?
By THINKing through their social media activity, choices, and behaviors, our kids can build a digital footprint that will be positive, professional, and powerful!