3 Tips to Manage Social Media and Your Complex Learner
It feels like technology changes at the speed of light. You may have just gotten used to well-known platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube when suddenly you hear about Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, and Live.me. It’s easier than ever before to text, share photos or videos, read microblogs, make and see live broadcasts and join group chats through multiple channels. And as a parent, it’s hard to keep up with everything your child knows!
For kids, social media is an exciting world where they can effortlessly connect to friends in new ways, play fun games, watch funny videos, and be part of a group. But along with the new apps and platforms come problems that crop up when they aren’t used responsibly. Hashtags with hidden meanings, communicating with strangers or risky social media challenges make social media a scary world for parents. While digital citizenship and online safety are crucial for every child to know, it’s especially important for Complex Learners. Due to their learning difficulties, Complex Learners tend to act impulsively and don’t always think about the consequences of their actions before making a decision. This can be a dangerous combination online. But there are ways you can help. Check out our 3 tips below on how to manage social media and your Complex Learner.
- Talk to your child
The most important and effective thing any parent can do is to talk to their child about social media. Instead of just enforcing rules or restrictions on your child’s online activity, take the time to explain why these rules are in place. It’s important for your child to understand the real risks involved.
From sharing personal information to cyberbullying, there are multiple concerns in the social media world. You can’t eliminate every threat but you can educate your child. Have an honest and open (and age appropriate!) discussion about their social media use. It’s easy for kids to think that anything that’s posted or said online won’t affect the “real world” since, in their eyes, it only exists on social media. Try role-playing online situations that could have real-world consequences (e.g., how would it make their friend feel if you posted an unflattering photo of them or what could go wrong if you give credit card information to a stranger?). These scenarios can help them take their time online more seriously. Just as you helped teach her how to be a good friend, she has to learn how to behave appropriately and responsibly online.
Using social media is a responsibility. If you are trusting him with that responsibility, he has to learn how to behave respectfully and safely. With proper education, you can help your child learn what’s never okay to do or share online, why certain behaviors are dangerous, and most importantly what to do if she sees something that’s wrong or unsafe. Encourage him to come to you or another trusted adult with any questions or concerns.
- Do your homework
It can be overwhelming to think of how many different apps are out there but just as you want your child to be educated, you have to be educated on social media as well. Don’t worry – you don’t have to have your own account on every social media platform in existence. But it’s crucial you understand how the platforms your child uses actually work.
When you’re talking to your child about social media (see Tip #1!), ask her to show you Snapchat or WhatsApp and explain it to you. Ask questions. He may be more willing to open up and have a discussion when he sees that you’re interested in learning and understanding why he likes it in the first place.
Do your own due diligence too. With countless trusted resources available online, read articles and professional research. If you have concerns regarding anything, trust your gut and look into it. Understand the privacy settings for each platform and work together with your child to set their settings. With a clearer understanding of what is going on, you can help alleviate risks that have you worried!
- Set ground rules
Social media has its share of dangers, so it’s important to remember that at the end of the day – you are the parent. Only you know what your child is and isn’t capable of handling. You are the one who should be setting the ground rules regarding your child’s social media use. Is she allowed to have her own phone or tablet? Can he download whatever apps he wants or are you in charge of approving any app download? Can she accept friend requests from someone she doesn’t know? Is he allowed to comment on YouTube videos or post his own videos? Is she allowed to change her own settings? Are there hours that he can’t be on social media or his phone? Will you be monitoring her account?
What happens if he breaks any of these rules?
Set clear boundaries with your child and stick to them. At a family meeting, write out the rules on a large piece of paper together and hang it in a highly frequented spot in the house like the family room or kitchen. Take a picture of the rules using your child’s phone or iPad so she always has it to refer back to. Review the rules with your child frequently to make sure he still understands why they’re necessary.
Social media can be a difficult road to navigate for any parent. What tips do you have for educating or monitoring your child’s online life? Share them below!