I am a father of three now and my 2 and 4 year olds use the iPad consistently. Knowing that even the innocent can find danger, I have had to safeguard my iPads for their use. I have shut off the use of in-app purchases, Youtube.com and Safari just to be safe that they do not stumble upon unsavory topics. Luckily, I do not have to worry yet about social media sites with my children. Your students are most likely older than my children so there are a few safeguards and tips on communicating about using technology that I would like to share.

Experts recommend parents to use a variety of ideas to safeguard their children online. With the vast use of mobile devices and laptops, the standard practices we used to use have disappeared. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, only about three in ten young people say they have rules about media use in the home. (pbs.org, 2010) It is hard to stay one step ahead of the students with so many new apps and social media sites. You can setup some app restrictions, locations they can use their devices, and time usage on their devices.

Many parents have used rules that they established, but, just like most technology pieces, there are ways around the safety protocols. Here are a few ways to be aware of the social media presence your child has online.

  • Friend your child on social media. There are ways around this and children do sometimes create multiple accounts. One for their parents and their real account for their friends.
  • Ask to see your child’s account. Look over there message feed. If there is nothing to hide, they should be cooperative.
  • Talk to them about the “digital footprint they leave behind”. Colleges and future employers are skimming potential hires and students for their social media choices. Remind them about the types of pictures they post, where they are, or who they are with.
  • Create a strategy for monitoring your kids’ online social media use, and be sure you follow through. Some families may check once a week and others more sporadically. You may want to say “Today I’ll be checking your computer and cell phone.”  The older your kids are, the more often you may need to check. But, keep in mind, they are tech-savy, so they may delete undesirable info before you check.
  • Ask them whom they messaged or what they posted today on their social media. Have a meaningful conversation with them about the topic.

In today’s world many dangers exist and your child may not be looking for trouble, but sometimes trouble looks for them. A few ways to monitor the digital content is to consider formal monitoring systems to track your child’s email, texts and image content. You can set time limits for Internet and cell phone use. Learn the warning signs of trouble: skipping activities, meals and homework for social media. If there is irritability and deceptiveness, then again there is cause to be more inquisitive.

Be transparent and let your kids know what you are doing. This way there is a positive relationship. Express that you may trust their judgment, but you have to be wary of others and what they do online. Also, share with them that even though their friends may “like”, “retweet” something that is inappropriate, doing the same is the same as posting it themselves. Basically, develop a level of trust and responsibility between you and your children. Let them know you are just looking out for their well being.