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How to Teach Your Child to be a Responsible User of Social Media.

In this day and age of modern technology, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. The latest studies show that 4.62 billion people now use social media, and roughly 6% of it comprises young people. Approximately 277 million kids below 18 years old share their thoughts on Facebook, post photos on Instagram, retweet memes on Twitter, and upload videos on Tiktok for friends, family, and even strangers to see.

For most kids and teens, social media is an avenue to achieve a sense of belonging. It’s a space in the digital world where they can have fun, make new friends and connect with old ones, share interests and explore new hobbies. It’s an area where your kids can expand their knowledge, explore their creativity, and enhance their well-being. However, along with the benefits of using social media come to its risks, and cyberbullying is one of them.

Cyberbullying is defined as “bullying with the use of digital technologies.” It is repeated behavior that aims to scare, shame, or anger its target and can take place not only on social media but also on messaging apps, gaming platforms, and mobile phones. The more addicted a child or a teenager is to social media, the more likely they are to be exposed to cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is no joke, and its effects on children are no laughing matter. It can trigger different negative emotions and cause health issues for children. At such a young developing age, dealing with such emotions can be unstable. Moreover, its effect can also manifest physically, such as constantly feeling tired due to loss or lack of sleep, or even symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can even push children to take their own lives.

As parents, we play a pivotal role in preventing and responding to cyberbullying. Here are some ways how to teach our kids to be responsible social media users and help them stay safe from cyberbullying:

Respect begets respect
As with all relationships, whether it’s face to face or online, respect for one’s self and other people is very important. Encourage your child to treat others respectfully – no insulting or humiliating people on social media or creating and sharing nasty images of someone else, remind them to the common trolling dangers found online and that by treating people nicely, they are more likely to do the same in return.  Similarly, teach your child to block or unfriend people who do not treat them with respect.

Protect your privacy
Teach your child the importance of privacy settings. Explain to them that they can only share as much personal information as necessary on their social media sites and reiterate the importance of passwords in safeguarding them from identity theft.

Think before you click
Remind your child that what they post on the internet can be used against them. Make them understand the consequence of uploading content on social media, such as photos and videos, and how these posts will become part of their permanent online reputation. Explain to them that once you upload or post something on the internet, it will be there forever, and this may not be what they want on the internet.

Stranger danger
This rule is pretty simple, something kids should follow in real life. Don’t befriend strangers. If you don’t know them, don’t add them or engage in a conversation with them. Remind them always to be wary of the people they meet or come across online because, in the virtual world, not everyone is who they say they are.

Lead by example
Show your child how you use social media respectfully and healthfully. Talk about your social media habits and how you interact with other people online. Promote netiquette and reiterate the importance of being polite and courteous. As social media platforms evolve, their reach will expand, and their impact on our lives will be more significant and intertwined.

As parents, it is our duty to guide and supervise our kids as they explore the digital world. It is our responsibility to know what our kids do online because this is the first and the best way to protect them from cyberbullying.

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