Here are some tips for parents to model good social media habits.
As much as we may not want to admit it, we all have a social media reputation.
Some of us are loud, others are more reserved and some are interesting
enough to have a large following. If you haven’t considered your
online reputation in a while, maybe it’s a good idea, especially
if you’re a parent.
“Children learn by watching their parents—as a mother with
two small sons, that’s something I’m continually aware of,” says
Bonnie Connolly, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. “The way you model your behavior in social settings, including
social media, can have a very big impact on them.”
How do you model good social media habits? Even if your child is too young
to read what you are posting, it’s not a bad idea to start being
more intentional about your social media habits. Here are some tips.
Check your dependency. Do you run for your phone the moment you come home from work? We all like
to catch up on social media after hours, but if you’re putting screen
time ahead of family time, check your priorities. The same goes for scrolling
through phones during family meals. A good rule is to keep technology
off the dining room table.
Don’t overshare. When children are young, it’s easy to get hooked into posting endless
photos of them doing the cutest little things. But do you need to show
every tantrum and potty training session? Obviously, you can't ask
a baby or toddler for permission. But you can pause for a moment before
posting and ask if your child’s privacy is more important than that
droopy diaper pic. For older children, ask before posting images of them.
Even if you’re dying to post all the cute things they say and do,
you’re sending a strong message to them that not everything must
be shared on social media.
Think safety. Don’t turn on your geo-locator. Don’t advertise you’re
on vacation. Don’t friend people you don’t know. These are
generally good tips for all of us, and important for children to model.
Be clear with your child that despite the term “Facebook friend,”
not everyone has the best intentions when roaming social media sites.
Don’t bully. We may not even think we’re being mean, but it really doesn’t
take much to harass or insult someone on social media. Don’t engage
in activities such as “subtweeting” – referencing someone
without actually tagging them. Also, platforms that allow you to send
anonymous messages can be just as destructive. You may tell your children
not to be bullies in school, but if you’re doing it in the social
media sphere, it can be equally hurtful.
Being bullied is frightening for a child. Know the
signs to watch out for.
Watch your tone. Humble-bragging, incessant complaining and cryptic postings are irritating
to readers and set a bad example for your kids. You’re not expected
to be happy all the time, but make sure you don’t set a pattern
for a consistently negative or bragging tone. Keep your postings balanced
and authentic. Also, grammar and writing style do count. If you have to
accompany an emoji with all your posts, maybe you’re not expressing
yourself very well.
Do comment on and “like” other peoples’ posts. If you appreciate what others have said, take the time to comment or signal
approval, such as a Facebook “like.” It shows that you are
appreciative of your friends and concerned about their lives. The practice
of responding to another person’s posting is especially important
if you read someone is struggling with hard times. Expressing empathy
is a critical value children learn from their parents.
Pick up the phone or better yet, go for a visit. How many times have you openly groused about someone not responding to
a direct message on social media? Stop jumping to conclusions that the
person is snubbing you (your kids hear your complaints). It could be your
friend doesn’t check her account as often as you. So, pick up the
phone or better yet, arrange to get together. Let your children know that
there are many ways of interacting with people.
Keep your content interesting. Not all your postings need to be personal. Sometimes it’s just interesting
to share an article your read or fact you just discovered (maybe even
something you learned in HealthCalling!). Posting interesting content
shows your children that you’re curious and connected with your
world –behaviors that are always good to model online and in “real
Social media can be a source of tremendous anxiety in preteens and adolescents,
even when their parents lead by example. Learn how to
set guidelines for your child’s online activity.