When we think about the dangers of social media for kids, we often worry about what can be done to them. And of course, parents do need to beware of the apps, we also need to talk to children about the trouble they can get into themselves. We need to encourage them to think about what they post.
Their Digital Footprint is Forever
Children are spontaneous and don’t always think through their decisions. Science tells us that this is totally normal and due to their stage of brain development. It’s critical that parents help to act as a child’s guide to thinking through decisions and this includes what they post.
A digital footprint is the trail of information we leave behind when we use the internet. A digital footprint is made by things such as social media posts including photos, status updates, check-ins at locations, online groups and sites that we’ve liked or joined, and posts from other people that you’ve shared. It also includes things that can be learned about a person based on activity such as websites visited, personal information entered, and messages sent.
Parents can help children manage their digital footprints by explaining the general concept and showing them how it works. This free lesson plan from CommonSense.org is an excellent resource to get started. Parents and children can also discuss the lasting impact social media can have on a person’s future. This includes college acceptance, job opportunities, and even legal peril.
According to Kidscape.org, kids can stay safe online and make better decisions about what they post by asking the following questions:
Will I feel good or different about it later?
Why am I posting?
Would I say this in person?
Can this be interpreted differently?
Am I being kind?
Is it really private?
Do I have permission?
Would I like me?
Is it legal?
It can also be good practice for parents to periodically monitor their children’s social media accounts. Check in to be sure they are making good decisions and have discussions about what they are posting and why.
Practice What You Preach When Posting
While we worry about our children’s actions, parents are often guilty of creating unflattering digital footprints themselves. We can also unintentionally damage our children by adding to their digital footprints without considering the ramifications.
Sure we want to share our pride, amusement, and sometimes frustration connected to our kids with friends and family. But should we always?
Experts and children’s’ rights advocates advise that parents consider the effects of over-posting or “sharenting” on their children. “We’re in no way trying to silence parents’ voices,” Stacey Steinberg, a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainesville. says. “At the same time, we recognize that children might have an interest in entering adulthood free to create their own digital footprint.”