Should Parents Monitor Their Children’s Social Media?
When past generations of parents let their children socialize, the setting was in-person and it was often fairly easy to know what kids were doing. In fact, everyone kids knew either lived on their block or went to their school. Today, the internet and social media have evolved into the main social gathering spot for teens and kids. Forget the mall; Snapchat and Instagram provide the same social gratification as any real life interaction. The problem? Who knows what’s being sent, said…or saved.
How Can Parents Stay In The Know?
While kids and teens seem far savvier than their parents, staying informed on a child’s actions on social media isn’t impossible in the e-centric century. Parents aren’t at a loss to stop kids from ill-advised internet choices. There are options to discover what a child posted on Snapchat and Facebook, but it can be confusing for parents to figure out the best parenting style for their family.
The only question is: Should parents monitor their children’s social media?
Most kids are savvy enough to know how to cover their virtual paths in social media realms. And it’s the social media world that should have parents most concerned. Stories of social media dangers are numerous. From Megan Meier’s MySpace bullying by what was revealed to be her friend’s mother to televised suicide. And, of course, online predators who seek to manipulate and groom kids and teens by reaching out to them as virtual ‘friends.’
Nothing is what it seems. Every virtual gathering spot, social media hub and platform can be distorted from fun to fear-ridden. For this reason, parents may feel they have no choice but to watch a child’s virtual moves.
Internet Rules That Help With Monitoring
Many parents use monitoring software to help them easily keep track of their child’s social profiles and messages between friends (and possibly strangers.) When giving your child a smartphone or tablet for the first time on their own, it’s important to set a ground rule that they will be monitored until they are old enough to understand the responsibility and accept all accountability.
There also are other ways that parents monitor kids on social media or their smartphone—beyond tech-based software solutions. According to a Pew Research study, “48% of parents say they know the password to their teen’s email account, 43% are privy to their teen’s cellphone password, and 35% know the password to at least one of their teen’s social media accounts.”
Parents also reported that they friended their child on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as a way to stay connected…and virtually check-in. Pew reported that “some 56% of parents indicate that they are friends with their teen on Facebook, Twitter and/or some other social media platform.”
Talk To Your Child About Digital Monitoring
In an article for CBS News titled “Should Parents Snoop on their Kids Online?,” Eliene Augenbraun explored the pros and cons of the question that every parent asks at some point. Augenbraun interviewed Caroline Knorr, parenting editor for Common Sense Media, who discussed one of the biggest problems in monitoring children online.
“Kids know technology better than their parents do. If you rely on technology to monitor your kids or prevent them from engaging in online risks you are getting a false sense of security,” Knorr told CBS in an interview. “Any determined kid can defeat any technology you put out there. Even if the company says they can’t, they can.”
This is why even when you are monitoring your kid, it’s so important to have discussions about digital safety. While some kids may challenge the software, knowing that a monitoring program is in place also might cause other kids to think before they post. The software may actually hold them to a higher accountability.
Keeping kids safe means educating them. Social media is the ideal place for cyberbullying, and this should be a parent’s primary concern. Talk to kids about bullying. Tell them what is ok to post and what isn’t. Make sure they know all pictures are forever…even those that seemingly disappear on Snapchat. Always stress that personal information remains private. And inappropriate messages and photos are not allowed.
Empower kids to come to you if they are being bullied. The only way parents can help and advocate for their child is if the lines of communication remain open. Trust is vital.
In the virtual world, though, ignorance can be the worst crime. Educate kids and teens to use common sense while on social media. And the monitoring method is up to you.