From Club Penguin to Facebook, the ever-increasing presence of social media in kids' lives has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue a new report aimed at moms and dads. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says coauthor Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D.
Social networking certainly has its advantages. It strengthens connections with friends and family and encourages participation in community service , collaboration on school projects, and communication with coaches and teammates. It can even help kids who don't quite “fit in” foster their identity and unique social skills.
How does it go wrong? Impulsive kids may comment on an inappropriate post without thinking, which can snowball and become very hurtful, says Dr. Clarke-Pearson. Here, some ways to help your child use social media appropriately:
Immerse yourself. Know how to create a profile, “friend” your child, and be a part of his online life. He may insist that you don't embarrass him by posting comments his friends can see, but that's okay. You still get a window into his world.
Be a model. If you're constantly on the cell or computer, your tween will want to be, too.
Power down. Insist that meals be device-free and set a reasonable bedtime.
Chat him up. Don't rely solely on a “net nanny” software program to keep your kid from questionable sites. Talk about your and his social-media experiences.
Go public. Keep the computer centrally located in the family room or kitchen.
Be kind. Discourage meanness, gossiping, and posting anything that's untrue or potentially harmful.
Take action. For more info, go to cybersafebook.com.