As a parent or foster parent, it’s your job to keep your kids safe when they operate on social media. While it might seem harmless to allow your older kids to create Facebook Profiles and Instagram accounts, it’s only as safe as you make it.
There are, unfortunately, questionable people that may surface on any website. Whether they’re intentionally looking to cause trouble or casually cause it, people with bad intentions can find their targets easily on social media sites.
Here are my five suggestions to do this, especially for those fostering children:
- Create an age limit
You should always keep a list of rules regarding the use of social media in your home, no matter what ages your children are. As long as they are under your care, you are responsible for keeping them safe. Some good rules include age limits for social media accounts. While the limit is really up to you, there’s no good reason a younger child should have a social media account. Once your kids get into their teenage years, however, it might be more of a battle to prevent them from using social media than not.
- Monitor usage
If possible, keep the family computer in a public place and carefully monitor its use by all children and teens in your home. Set blocks and restrictions for websites after certain hours. If needed, block Internet usage on cell phones and other mobile devices.
- Know all the passwords
This one can be a bit trickier if you’re a foster parent who is fostering a child or teen. The youth might already have a social media account or two when he or she comes into your house, which means you won’t be able to stop its creation. Instead, require them to give you the passwords so you can log on to their accounts at any time. This allows you to make sure their behavior is safe and appropriate.
By making this a household rule, it doesn’t seem unfair to ask a new foster child for his or her login information if you already have login information for all the underage kids in your house. Your job is to prepare your kids — both biological and foster — to become independent and suitably self-protecting for the future.
- Talk about social media usage
Don’t assume that just because your kids are teens, they already know the rules of social media and how to use these sites properly. This is especially true when you’re a foster parent because you don’t know what your foster children were previously taught about the rules of social media.
Discuss regularly what could happen if one of your children posts personal information such as your address, a picture with your house and house number in it, your phone number, or a comment that you’re out of town. Sometimes kids don’t think through the implications about divulging information such as this. It’s also important to ask them not to “like” or join any pages that give away personal information, such as their school pages or club/team pages.
- Require private profiles
One of the easiest ways to keep your kids safe on social media is through a private profile. While it’s never completely private — and you should repeat this piece of information to your kids frequently — it’s safer.
Warn them not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know. Check their friend lists frequently to ensure they are only friends with people they know in real life, and do not allow others to post photos to their page without first being approved by your child or you.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch. You might use it to keep up with your distant friends and relatives — and your kids might do the same. Your foster kids might use it to keep in touch with friends and family they’ve made in the system, so it’s important that you let them have this freedom when they are at an age you feel you can trust them.
Image courtesy Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.