Hands up if you don’t have a social media account?
Fact is most everyone is a citizen of the virtual-social world—and like the “real” world, the social one comes with its own threats. We teach children about stranger danger “IRL” (In Real Life), but online behavior is as consequential. You should agree as a family on what is/isn’t acceptable online.
A good place to start is asking the question: what would hurt or embarrass one another? Include these topics in the discussion:
- Cyber-bullying affects roughly 1 in 4 adolescents and teens (National Institutes of Health, 2015) and bullying was reported to be a major factor in the Columbine High School shooting.
- Academic and employment opportunities can be hurt because of online missteps.
- Safeguarding identity online is important because once lost to theft, your identity can be hard to repair and recover.
- If a family member breaks the rules willfully or from neglect—as in real life—think about the consequences and restitution that should follow, like doing chores or community service.
Create a Family “10 Commandments”
A good way to frame your family’s social media policy is to create a Social Media 10 Commandments—a set of rules with little room for ambiguity that everyone must follow. Here’s an example as food-for-thought.
- Set rules around spending and making financial transactions online. Many families disallow online spending by children or by those below a certain age.
- Define limits around profane words and images.
- Prohibit online bullying or threats.
- Don’t take someone else’s images or words as your own, and never spam.
- Always protect the privacy of your family, friends, coworkers, teachers, neighbors, and those around you, including when deciding whom to tag. This includes asking permission before tagging/posting pictures of someone else and checking in with others before posting private family information no matter how seemingly innocuous it is.
- Get a list of all current accounts, and don’t allow accounts to be created without permission.
- Set online time limits and offline schedules.
- Set phone-free zones: dinner table, restaurants.
- Never argue or fight online.
- Make certain that everyone knows that everything you do online is permanent; it goes one way (public), and you can’t get it back.
Be “social” and be safe!