This probably is not a statement that will shock you, but 90% of teenagers ages 13-17 use social media. Seventy-five percent report having at least one active social media profile whether that be Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or even Snapchat. On average, teens are online almost nine hours a day. How do we as parents and guardians make sure they are staying safe online?
Social media isn’t all bad, however; there can be some positive aspects of it. There are potential risks, so it is important for parents and guardians to help their teens use the internet responsibly. Some benefits of social media include staying connected to friends, meeting new friends with shared interests, finding a community and a support system for specific activities, sharing artwork or music, and exploring and expressing themselves.
Some potential risks of social media would include exposure to harmful or inappropriate content, cyberbullying, oversharing personal information, identity theft or being hacked, and interference with sleep, exercise, homework or family activities.
So how do we make sure our children are safe on social media? Well, be involved in their interests and why they like to use that particular social media platform. Try to keep up with your child’s internet activity by friending or following your child’s social media accounts. Have your child show you all the social media apps they are on and how they work. Talk about what they find interesting and what they like to “Google.” Encourage them to use social media in a positive way and discourage using it if it becomes a problem.
Set clear rules and try to keep them consistent between your children depending on their age and maturity level. Have some time set aside to spend with the family. Include rules like “no screen” times. Try setting boundaries such as not allowing screens at the dinner table and in bedrooms after a certain time in the day, or not allowing your children to use social media or the internet until their homework or schoolwork is done. Many families also set device curfews or impose time limits on gaming, and you can do so on social media apps and internet use as well.
Lastly, talk about appropriate and safe use of the internet. Teach your kids that not everyone is who they say they are on the internet. Your children should only communicate with people that they know in real life, whether that be friends from school, clubs and sports, or trusted relatives. Parents should also talk about the dangers of sharing personal information such as their home address, school, or class schedule as well as the consequences of posting inappropriate content.
It is never too early to start these conversations with your kids about internet safety. The goal is to make your children comfortable with coming to you if they have a problem. If your child becomes a victim of cyberbullying, contact local police or the nearest FBI field office, and report the issue to the social media platform on which it occurred.
If you feel your teenager is spending too much time on social media and the internet, and is upset by what they see or becomes involved with risky behaviors, talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, or a trained and qualified mental health professional. They can help you and your child create safe and appropriate rules regarding social media and internet use.
There are several 4-H Clubs for Garland county youths who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available for youths, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension office, 623-6841, or email her at [email protected]
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month online. The meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call Alison Crane, family and consumer sciences agent, at 623-6841 or email her at [email protected]