There are some conversations that all parents will eventually have to have with their kids at some point. Like the “birds and bees” talk and the “who is the tooth fairy?” conversation. They’re simply unavoidable. And in 2023, one of those unavoidable conversations is the “social media talk.”
Undoubtedly, at a certain age, your kid will start asking to have social media. As their friends start to explore the digital world, it’s only natural that your kid is going to want to join in on the fun. And make no mistake, social media is fun — or it can be. Instagram can be an awesome way for your kid to explore their interests and TikTok can be an inspiring place for your kid to show off their talents, whatever they may be. Not to mention the fact that kids often feel that social media helps them stay connected to their friends’ lives, especially if they don’t get to hang out every day.
But all of those positives are just the tip of the iceberg, because social media also comes with HUGE potential dangers if you and your kid are not prepared for them. So that’s why we’ve put together a few key tips to help you introduce your kid to social media.
Educate Yourself and Your Children About the Dangers
So, what exactly are the dangers? Well, if you’re on any social media platforms yourself, you probably know that bullying, body shaming, foul language, and sexual content are commonplace. And you may know that child predators have used social media to target kids. It’s scary how common this is and just how quickly a predator can form a bond with your child. One study found that it can take just 8 minutes for this connection to take place.
One of the most challenging parts of allowing kids on social media is keeping them safe from online strangers — you never know which online stranger could be a potential predator. On the flip side, your child can be targeted by peers that they actually know in real life, with cyberbullying being a huge risk factor among kids online.
So what can parents do? First, educate yourself! Second, educate your kid! Easier said than done — we’ll admit that — but just knowing about the potential dangers is half the battle for a lot of parents. And if you and your kid can build trust to openly communicate about these things, you will be lightyears ahead in this digital parenting thing.
Study Different Social Media Platforms
Now for practicalities: what’s the best way for parents to educate themselves, especially if they’re not personally using these platforms?
Well, one way is a trusty Google search. There are lots of resources that can tell you all about every platform ! But one surefire way to really understand the inner workings of social media is to download the Bark app and make an account. That might seem like a lot of work, (let’s be honest, what parent has a bunch of free time to peruse random social media sites?) but it just might be worth the effort. Familiarizing yourself with the app can give you more clarity if your kids have questions or if they run into issues later on. And another bonus — once you’ve decided they can have social media, you can follow their account to check in on what they are posting and commenting on.
So after your research, you should have an idea of which platforms you’re comfortable with your kid having and which ones you’re more worried about. Now it’s time to actually talk about all of it with your kid.
Create a Tech Contract
A great way to clearly communicate with your kid and set healthy boundaries is a tech contract. We encourage parents to sit down with their kid and write out what expectations come with their access to social media. Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Platforms they can use freely
- Platforms they can use with restrictions
- Platforms they cannot use at all
- Hours they can use each platform
- Features that are on and off limits
- Types of content they may view and/or share
- How to handle friends, likes, followers, etc.
- Private message guidelines
Actively Monitor Your Child’s Social Media Activity
Unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop after the research and tech contract. Once your kid is on social media, it is super important to stay in the loop about anything harmful or suspicious coming up on their feed. And that’s exactly where Bark steps in! Bark can monitor your kid’s social media accounts and text messages and alert you to things like cyberbullying, predatory comments, and more. It also gives you insight into your kid’s digital world so you can understand them better.
Take a moment to learn more about Bark. Have a social media talk with you kid. And keep your kid safe with the most comprehensive monitoring tool.