It’s the norm today for kids (and many big kids) to upload their every move – from the mundane to the momentous – to online platforms. It’s certainly no different for my children, who are always excited to share their latest news with friends and family online.
But while it takes just a few seconds to post something on social media, the impact of that post can last much longer. The fact is, once information makes its way online, it can be easily shared around and tricky to remove.
That’s why I always remind my kids that it’s so important our online actions are positive and reflect who we are in the ‘real world’. The last thing I want is for their future opportunities in work and life to be affected by something they posted online when they were young.
Here are just a few ways I help my children create a digital presence to be proud of, so that how they act online today doesn’t come back to bite them later in life.
Keep things confidential
According to research, children aged eight to 13 – like my youngest child – have an average of two active social media accounts each, while 13-to-17-year-olds have an average of three. Yet only 61 per cent of young social media users have a completely private profile.
By encouraging my kids to activate their privacy settings, I help them prevent their content being shared without their say-so, and only with people they know and trust.
Pause before posting
Young people – my kids included – are often in a rush to post a photo or comment on their social media feeds. I can understand their urgency – these days, there’s a badge of honour to be gained by posting ‘first’ about an event or happening. Unfortunately, it means young internet users don’t always stop and think before they post something online.
One way I encourage my children to pause before posting is by asking themselves whether it’s something they’d be happy to be associated with two months or even 10 years down the line. Would they feel comfortable if one of their teachers were to see the post, or even if I came across it? If the answer’s no, it’s probably best not to hit the button. Because even if they’re posting privately, there’s always that chance content might make its way into the public sphere.
Choose your words carefully
Social media and online forums are great outlets for self-expression, and while most users behave respectfully towards one another, your child is likely to witness poor online behaviour. About 45 per cent of young people say the main downside of social media is being exposed to nasty comments, and it’s something my kids have mentioned to me as well.
Like all responsible parents, I’ve raised my kids to treat others as they would want to be treated, so it’s just a case of reminding them that this applies when they’re socialising online too.
Do a digital sweep
I’ve got my children into the habit of checking their digital footprints on a regular basis. One way to do this is to sit down together and type their name into a search engine to see what results come up. If there are images or posts that neither of us are happy with, we can delete the content or politely ask the person who posted it to remove it.