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9 Lessons All Parents Should Teach Their Kids About Social Media

How can parent make sure their kids are using social media smartly and safely? By following the rules and guidelines of a social media guru.

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Live in real time

“Life should be lived in real time not behind a screen,” according to Laurie Wolk, author of Girls Just Wanna Have Likes: How to Raise Confident Girls in the Face of Social Media Madness. Don’t ignore real life. “We’re raising adults here, so let’s teach them the communication skills to become adults ‘real life’,” suggests Wolk. She says to practice communicating with your children, along with hosting family meetings, talking about your day, and getting your kids used to talking about themselves. Plus, it’s always a good idea to ask questions.

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Everyone is showing off

On social media, everyone is showing off their highlight reels. Wolk reminds parents to explain to kids that no one’s life is perfect. “Nothing—not even money, fame, or oodles of followers on social media—will make our lives run perfectly all the time. Know this. Expect it. Move on,” she advises. While you’re talking to them, let them know about the weird effects social media can have on the brain.

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Ask yourself these questions before you post

Before posting, Wolk recommends parents post these questions near their children’s computer or on the fridge, encouraging kids to ask themselves about a potential post: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Is it going to cause drama? Am I posting this for the right reasons? Her “Think B4 U Post” sheet includes questions such as, “Would your grandma want to see this?”; “Is that yours to share?” and “Would you share/say that in real life?” She says if you pass these questions, then you can post.

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Social media is no substitute for face-to-face

Sure, your kids may feel like they’re connecting with their peers, but screentime is no substitute for in-person connections. “Make sure your kids know how to show sincerity directly, comfort someone by being there for them, and explain serious subjects with their actual voices and body language instead of emojis,” says Wolk. Here are 10 ways to maintain a healthy relationship with social media.

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If you don’t have anything nice to say…

This isn’t something new. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. “You can’t hear someone’s tone of voice or see their facial expressions, so it’s much easier to hurt feelings (or get your feelings hurt),” says Wolk.

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Nothing is private, even if you think it is

Stress to your kids that nothing they put on social media is private. No matter how secure their privacy settings are. Stay away from publishing phone numbers, addresses, full names, or any other identifying information. Here are seven photos you should never, ever post online.

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Calm down before you post or respond to a post

“Don’t post stuff online in a heightened emotional state,” suggests Wolk. “If you’re having a stressful school week, friend troubles, parent problems, or just not feeling your best, don’t turn to technology to rant or blow off steam.” Social media should not be treated like a diary. And be sure to follow these seven etiquette rules for complaining online.

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Let yourself experience your feelings

Wolk says feelings need to be felt. “If we allow our kids to distract themselves with Netflix,, Snapchat, Instagram, or the latest app-based game to avoid dealing with the “hard stuff,” then when the real hard stuff comes along, they won’t be able to cope,” advises Wolk.

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Internet downtime is crucial

“Kids and adults alike need downtime,” recommends Wolk, “We need time to unplug and replenish our mental and emotional resources.” Kids need to be able to reflect and rejuvenate on their day before hopping right on social media. Maybe you can get them to fully unplug on your next vacation with these eleven tips.

Felissa Benjamin Allard
Felissa Allard has worked at The New York Daily News, Health, Life & Style, and more. As a freelancer, she has had pieces published on What To Expect, SELF, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Modern Mom, Working Mother, and more. Her specialities are beauty, fashion, health, wellness, and parenting.