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Monday, October 09, 2017

Social Media Strategies for Children

Is Social Media bad for you?

This question has been going around in my head for quite a while now, and of course there are many articles that discuss social media or SM on our timelines at all times. Here are my 2 cents on how I try to make sense of things as they are today, and how I enable my kids.

Can Social Media be a waste of time and keep us away from other important tasks? Yes.

Can it lead to mood-shifts and disenchantment with the way things are? Yes.

Can it sometimes mean a dangerous level of over-sharing details of our lives? Yes, very much so.

Does it offer quite a few positives including getting and staying in touch with friends and family, and learning about the joys and triumphs in others' lives? Also a yes.

Does it give me a chance to share my happiness? Yes it absolutely does!

The challenge is about how to balance those scary first few questions with the latter more positive impacts that SM has had in most of our lives. I think the answer is a simple one. Self-regulation. Knowing when to indulge and when to stop. Sounds like most "vices" doesn't it? And that's how I treat it.

The world around is us constantly changing. The way in which our kids approach most things, starting with homework to communicating with friends instantly has hugely changed fro when we were their age.

Do my children have an easier time with their schoolwork, and the required research, thanks to the Internet? Yes.

Does that give me more responsibility to keep them safe in the big bad online world? Yes!! 

What is it that might work best as a strategy for kids? 

A total ban except for when I can look over their shoulder? Obviously not! This is not a realistic expectation, and I realise this even more strongly as my older one is on the verge of becoming a teenager. It needs to be a balance of regulating time spent online and using controls (and open communication with them, which is vastly underrated as far as I'm concerned) to keep them safe.

As of now, these steps have been helping with my 12 year old. My 9 year old is still not allowed his own phone or to be on SM (including WhatsApp), and surprisingly he hasn't felt the need for it as well :).

1. WhatsApp is allowed only with cousins and a close set of friends. In fact, I wonder if I've made her a bit too aware of the dangers of sharing her number indiscriminately, and she doesn't even give it to her classmates for project discussions. This means I end up doing a lot of the coordinating of seeing messages and responding (hmm maybe that's her strategy ;)).

2. All other social media outlets, and email as well, will only be allowed when she's 13 and over (which is actually what is stated according to the terms of service anyway). We are currently in discussions as to why I think we should put off FB especially until a bit later, and maybe start only with an Instagram (private) account.

3. I recognise that there will be a point beyond which I will just have to trust D (and later S), and give them a lot more privacy in her online interactions. This is why talking, talking, talking about it, until I see that some of what I'm trying to say has made an impression, is my best ongoing strategy :).

4. Not specific to social media, but regulating device time in general. This means I need to remain aware of where all the devices at home are, at all times, but so be it :P. They have got into the habit of asking permission to use devices, so that's good for as long as it lasts.

What kind of steps or strategies do you use for Social Media use by your kids? Do share in the comments :).