Our Opinion: Set ground rules for teens’ and tweens’ social media use

August 31st, 2016 10:36 am

People of a certain age probably remember those public service announcements that aired at 10 p.m. or later on local television, asking adults, “Do you know where your children are?”

Well, moms, dads and guardians of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s younger residents, here’s an updated twist on that good-parenting theme: It’s 2016. Do you know with whom your children are texting? Tweeting? Snapchatting? Swapping videos? Sharing personal data? Showing photos?

If not, you had better talk it over with them, sooner rather than later.

Today’s youths typically grow up as active social media users – nearly three-quarters of children age 8 and below have access to a cellphone or other smart mobile device at home, according to one estimate – and that means they are likely to encounter online predators, Internet trolls or charlatans of other sorts.

It’s up to you to warn students of the risks and monitor their social media habits.

The National PTA in collaboration with LifeLock Inc, a provider of identity-theft protection services, offers an online tool called The Smart Talk, intended to help parents and their teens and tweens reach mutual agreement on the household’s Internet rules.

If you don’t already have ground rules, or if you haven’t discussed them together as a family recently, use the start of the new school year as an excuse to talk about online safety, privacy and related matters. “The Smart Talk Quick Guide” supplies links to helpful articles on topics such as “screen time” – how much is too much? – and “reputation and respect.” The latter category includes discussions about cyberbullying prevention.

The guide also includes questions to consider when deciding if your child is the “right age” to get a smartphone. Among them:

• “Does your kid show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when (he or she) leaves the house?”

• “Will they use text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?”

You cannot be at your child’s side every minute he or she is on social media. However, you can make clear your expectations, which, if unmet, result in consequences. Much like a missed curfew.

Consider it a parent’s obligation in the Facebook era.