Keep Social Media a Safe Place for Your Child

These safety tips can help give you peace of mind about your children’s online communication.

Whether your kids want to chat with friends or stay up to date with study groups, chances are they need a social media account to participate. In an increasingly connected world, parents seem to face new challenges every day.

“We live in a digital age, which can make kids vulnerable. All kinds of information is available online, and kids may not be aware of things that could negatively affect them,” says Laura Smith, DO, Pediatrician with Prevea Pediatrics. “If your kids are using social media, the most important things you can do are to talk to them about how to use this technology safely and frequently monitor their accounts.”

Specifically, remember to:

    • Be wary of risky behaviors your children may learn about on social media, including eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse.
    • Talk to them about activities that are not healthy or appropriate, such as cyberbullying and sexting.
    • Underscore the fact that anything they choose to share online is out there for the world to see and cannot always be deleted.
    • Remind your kids that sometimes the people they meet online may not be who they say they are.

By staying connected with your child’s online habits, you can help them use social media responsibly.

“Tech is a huge part of our world that is not going away,” Dr. Smith says. “Parents need to embrace it by showing kids how to engage with media in a positive way.”

Family Guidelines

To make responsible media use a family affair, set times of day when everyone disconnects from computers, phones, and tablets. Dinner time and the hour before bed are good times to do this. In addition, spend time talking face to face and engaging in fun family activities away from screens.

Several online tools are also available to help your crew connect responsibly. A couple of examples are the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Time Calculator and the Family Media Plan.

 Are you concerned about your child’s online relationships, behavioral changes, or mood? Call 715.717.4272 or visit www.prevea.com/medicalservices/behavioral-care. Visit us online to learn more about inpatient behavioral health services at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

There is no right age to give your child his or her first cell phone. Instead, base this decision on your child’s maturity level.

“Some children, even ones who are older, lack the capacity to think things through and solve problems, so don’t rush into purchasing a phone,” says Courtney Hovland, LPC, Behavioral Care Therapist with Prevea Behavioral Care. “When your child is doing well in school, has a handle on morning and bedtime routines, and shows solid understanding of social cues, that is a good time to talk about buying that first cell phone.”

You may also be interested in “911 Basics for Children.”