Questions & Answers provided by Common Sense Media
What are some basic social media rules for elementary school-age kids?
- Kids younger than 6 probably shouldn’t play in virtual worlds. If kids can’t yet read or write, they’ll be frustrated in online worlds. There are perfectly fun sites aimed at preschoolers that are more age-appropriate.
- Set up accounts together. By creating usernames and passwords together, you can begin walking kids through the basics of safe and appropriate online behavior.
- If you wouldn’t let your children have unsupervised play dates, don’t let them go online by themselves. Remember, the social skills they bring to online worlds are the same ones they have (or don’t have) in real life.
- Do your homework. Make sure you check out sites before you let your kids go online, and don’t settle for the most popular social sites; look around for ones that appeal to your kid’s interests or have an educational angle.
- Set time limits. And make sure online play is balanced with offline play.
- Establish codes of conduct. A good rule of thumb: If your kids wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, they shouldn’t say it online.
- Show kids how to flag inappropriate conduct. It’s easy for parents to learn how to use the flagging feature, and it’s important to show your kids how to use it, too. Explain that this is a healthy way to keep social-networking sites safe and fun for everyone.
- Make sure your children never share their passwords. Often kids will give other children their passwords for help in a game. Explain that giving away a password is like giving someone a part of your identity.
- Talk about money and what it means to your family. Some sites rely on users to buy extras. Don’t let a social-networking site that needs customer loyalty to be profitable teach your kids about earning, saving, and spending. Explain your own values.
- Keep the computer in a central place. This will let you monitor your child’s online life.
How do I help my child avoid digital drama?
- Help set boundaries. Understand that these days relationships often are played out both online and offline. Kids need their family’s guidance in establishing appropriate boundaries for healthy relationships.
- Take a time-out. With constant access to texting and posting online, kids don’t get a break from the back and forth that can keep digital drama going. Have some device-free time to give kids a chance to cool off.
Let them know you’re always there for them. Remind your kids often that you’re always available to talk. While you’re at it, remind them about the school counselor, a favorite teacher, a coach, or even a friend’s parent. Knowing that they have a trusted adult to talk to may encourage teens to open up more.
Use media to talk about drama. Reality TV shows often present extreme behavior as entertainment. Discuss why these shows are less likely to depict positive conflict resolution. Also talk about how these shows can encourage negative stereotypes about female friendships.