We’ve all heard stories about people who have trashed their reputation by posting something inappropriate online – but it’s not just about big statements. Reputation is built one brick at a time.
OK, we all know there are age limits on most of the social media platforms, but all it takes is a tick in the box to confirm you are above the minimum age and most kids are not above ticking the box regardless of their actual age. A survey says that 78% of kids under 13 have at least one social media profile.
If all their friends are on a particular platform, peer pressure can be very powerful – even if they know you won’t approve. As a parent it’s hard to keep up –even if your kids are over 13 don’t expect them to want you as ‘friends’ on Facebook; it’s really not good for their street cred!
The best you can hope for is to educate them and hope they were listening and taking it on board.
The big question is – have you educated them about the long-term effect of what they post today? On a practical level, they should know the basics and there’s a great set of tips here. Longer term you need to explain that, once posted, information is really tough to delete. It stays in browser caches, almost forever.
So if a tech-savvy employer wants to check you out – maybe five years or more into the future – you never know what might surface from your irresponsible youth.
This one is harder to get across though, as for most 14 or 15-year-olds, five years seems so far ahead as to be irrelevant. However, there are already plenty of situations where people have been fired or failed to get a job because of what they’ve posted on social media. Ask them to put themselves in a potential employer’s shoes – or those of the University they’re applying to.
If you think you need some education about keeping your kids safe online you might find this site useful.
Do YOU know what the minimum ages are for the various social media platforms?
Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest: 13
WhatsApp, LinkedIn: 16
YouTube, Flickr: 18 – or 13 with a parent’s permission.
Do you know which social media platforms your kids are registered on? This is a tough one as there is a fine balance between ‘concerned’ and ‘nosey’. The age gap makes this almost impossible to get right – your concern is almost certain to be interpreted as ‘interfering’ by kids once they hit that magic 13 – complete with teenage attitude!
Listen to what they talk about – maybe run a search for their name, although there may be many profiles with the same name, so that might only be the starting point.
Do you have any idea what they’re posting?
Most kids will talk about what their ‘besties’ have posted, unless it’s something they really don’t want you to know. Keep tuned to their conversation to get an idea of their activities.
Realistically, unless they have protected their accounts, you can probably see what they’ve posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, but this is where you need to decide at what point you just have to trust them.
Make sure they know what’s safe – and what’s not. Make it easy for them to check things out with you or another adult they trust. Then you might have to rely on the fact that you’ve taught them what’s right and wrong and trust them to live by those values.