In light of predators, bullying, and general time-wasting, you might be tempted as a parent to keep your children away from Facebook and Twitter for as long as possible. But when used correctly, your child can be safe online and can use social networking as a tool that will help them in many ways throughout life. Digital parenting is all about teaching those skills.
Make no mistake: as a parent you have the absolute right to decide when your child is ready to participate in social networking, whether it’s playing games at Club Penguin or setting up a Facebook profile.
When your child reaches the appropriate age, it’s important to start talking about social networking. Explore internet safety with them, and start exploring the social networking sites that interest them most.
Here are 3 reasons kids need social networking skills in the world they’re growing up in.
- The “real world” uses social networking. In the teen years, social networking may look like a waste of time. But they are learning the skills they will need in the future, because social networking will play a huge part in their ability to find jobs and make business connections. Knowing how to use social networking is now a basic prerequisite of many careers.
- Connecting with causes is easier. Teens can use social media to find local opportunities for community service, or be a part of a movement that doesn’t have a chapter near them. They can also use their social networking profiles to promote causes or raise awareness about issues that are important to them.
- Kids have opportunities to learn social skills. Social networking is an extension of a child’s offline life, where they continue to learn about making friends and interacting with others. Be aware that social networking should be part of a teen’s healthy social life, but it shouldn’t be the sole means of a teen’s social life.
Admittedly, educating and monitoring your child’s social networking when they reach the right age is definitely more time consuming than avoiding social networking altogether. But simply distancing children from social networking is putting them at a real disadvantage.
As long as you are there to support safe habits, social networking teaches your children skills they will need all throughout their life. What is your child learning today on Facebook or Instagram?
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.