Make your kids social-media savvy

29 April 2014

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – parents know too well how these and other social networks can spell trouble for their kids. Your child can have their own profile from 13 years old, and should know the rules and what the pitfalls are, say experts. It’s up to you to inform them.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – parents know too well how these and other social networks can spell trouble for their kids. Your child can have their own profile from 13 years old, and should know the rules and what the pitfalls are, say experts. It’s up to you to inform them.

Privacy

When it comes to social media the message is clear: There’s no such thing as privacy, experts say. There’s no guarantee you can control your personal information even if, for instance, your Facebook page can be only accessed by your friends. “Remember that people can download information from your cellphone or computer without your knowledge,” warns Johannesburg social media attorney Rosalind Davey.

Twittter and Instagram aren’t private. Check that your child understands that anyone anywhere in the world can see what they’re doing on these social networks.

Explain the underlying dangers of GPS settings (location services) to your child. They may have a stalker who can see on Facebook if they’re at a specific shopping mall.

Show your child how to block trolls and other people who are a nuisance. Your child can set their social network account so that, when someone tags them, they must first approve the tag before it appears on their profile.

You can be sued

You can break the law on social networks. Teach your child they can’t call the unpopular maths teacher all kinds of names on Twitter. He can lay a charge and sue your child for defamation.

Entries made under a pseudonym can be traced using a computer’s IP address. If the transgression is serious enough the police can obtain a warrant to trace the origin of the offending entry.

Beware of likes, retweets and favourites, Joburg social media attorney Lenja Dahms-Jansen warns. If someone sends your child a picture of someone in the nude on Twitter and they retweet it they could land in trouble merely for disseminating the picture.

The internet never forgets

“Explain to your child that something you say now could exist forever,” says Dinesh Balliah, a lecturer in new and social media at the University of the Witwatersrand. Your teenage daughter should therefore think twice before sharing a suggestive picture of herself on Instagram, even if it’s only for a laugh.

And your son should be made aware that wild party pictures taken of him while still a minor could cost him a place at the university res, even if he did nothing wrong.

Remember that pictures of and entries about the following could land you in hot water:

  • Intoxication or alcohol use among minors.
  • Drug-related entries.
  • Racist or homophobic statements or jokes.
  • Any images of a sexual nature.

My child has messed up

If your child is in trouble because of something they did online, try to limit the damage as soon as possible. “Remove the entry immediately and apologise but take care not to make any admissions of guilt,” Joburg social media attorney Lenja Dahms-Jansen says.

“Ask why he or she did it because the underlying reason could be because he’s unhappy or being bullied,” Cape Town child psychologist Robyn Jacobs says.

She suggests you help your child to write an apology so they can put their feelings into words. If your child has broken a house rule by, for instance, posting pictures in which they’re drinking alcohol they must be punished accordingly. “But take care that you don’t alienate your child. Make it clear why he’s being punished.”

- Mieke Vlok

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