1. “Friend” your kids and family members on Facebook If your child won’t friend you, don’t be discouraged. The reason why kids do not want to friend their parents is not what you think. It is actually because they are afraid that you will embarrass them. Once you have proven that you know how to behave on Facebook with your own network of friends and have made an effort to learn the culture, your child will have more confidence in you as an online friend. If they are still hesitant, then simply have at least one trusted parent or guardian friend your child.
2. Teach your family about privacy settings Our kids do not know as much as we think they do in this area. Privacy settings are forever changing and can be confusing. Sit down with your child and review their settings on a regular basis. I suggest that privacy settings be checked once a month. In my house we do it every Sunday. I recommend that privacy be set to “friends only”. “Everyone” and “friends of friends” settings are still too public.
3. Teach your kids to post thoughtfully Our kids do not naturally think about the ramifications of what they post or photos that they are tagged in. This is a good opportunity to help them develop that skill. Talk to them about their digital footprint and that it is permanent. Even though your child can take down a photo or post, they do not know who else has shared it or where it will end up.
4. Use Facebook so that you understand it The best way to understand how something works is to use it. Set aside 10 minutes a day to get on Facebook and explore. Ask your child to explain features that you don’t understand. This reversed teacher/learner role will go a long way in building an open communication about Facebook and give you the opportunity to guide and direct your child along the way. Your child may always have more knowledge about social media, but you will always have more wisdom and real life experience. Wisdom trumps knowledge. This is the perfect opportunity for both child and parent to benefit from each other.
5. Turn “questionable actions” by others on Facebook into teachable moments for your family Seize the opportunity to ask your child “What do you think?” when other behave in unfavorable ways online. You may be surprised by their answers. They will often recognize when others behave inappropriately. Talking through these real life examples will help your child think through the appropriate behavior should they be faced with a similar situation.
By following these simple steps, you can teach your child to function safely on Facebook and on other online platforms. Just like a hammer, Facebook is a tool that can be used to build relationships or to destroy friendships. Our children need our guidance in order to use this tool productively.