Without doubt, tweens and teens live in a social media world. They have Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Instagram followers, and a myriad of other connections through sites like Snapchat and Ask.fm. And that's in addition to people they email.
But do you and your child know about your child's online friends? Find out with the simple question, "Are you friends with this person in real life?"
Dr. Kortney Peagram, psychologist and owner of Bulldog Solution, a leading provider in anti-bullying and anti-violence programs in the Midwest, stresses that one way to prevent cyberbullying is to emphasize to kids that friends in the real world and the virtual world should match.
If someone is not your friend in the physical world, he/she is probably not your friend online.
Peagram suggests that parents go through lists of friends and followers with your child and ask, "Do you hang out with this person."
By limiting a friend/follower list to real life friends, parents dramatically reduce the chance of children communicating with adults posing as children or catfishing by peers.
And if a student at your child's school does not hang out with your child in real life, be wary of their reasons for hanging out with them online.
Peagram explained that some kids think that they have to be friends with everyone online, accept every friend request and return every follow.
That's not true.
That may seem obvious to adults, but I learned the hard way this weekend that it is not obvious to kids when I discovered that my child was emailing someone she didn't know. Granted, the email was at the same school account, but two years older and someone my child wouldn't know if they knocked on our door.
When I asked why my tween was emailing with this individual, she said, "Because I got a message from them." She said she thought she had to reply.
The school recently gave all sixth graders an email account, but not much instruction on how to use it. I'm pretty sure there was no directive to reply to every message ever received, but somehow my kid created one in her head.
Please learn from my wake up call.
Review with your kids these 3 things:
- Your friends in the online world should match those you have in the real world.
- Go through their accounts with them and filter friends to be only those with whom they spend time offline. Peagram calls this a "delete day."
- Tell them it okay to not respond to emails and not accept requests from people they do not. Not only is it is okay, tell them that you expect them to do that and let them know that you'll be monitoring to ensure that's what happens.
If you are looking to learn more about the numerous apps your tweens and teens may be used, check out the Tween Us parental guides to these apps:
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