Our online behavior often reflects how we behave in the real world. It’s important for parents to teach their children the value of good social media etiquette. However, kids today are isolated from socializing with their parents. The rise of new social media platforms made peer communication more private. Children have fewer opportunities to take etiquette cues from their parents and learn from their online peers instead.

These digital layers are cyber parenting challenges which we need to address. Talking to your kids about online safety and how to maintain a good reputation online can help tackle these challenges. Here are some of the basics on how you can coach your kids about the importance of social media etiquette.

Social media is a double-edged sword

Popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have been instrumental in building bridges and breaking barriers of communication. People can share ideas, opinions, and even rally the online community to support a good cause. Social media also helped young adults and teens cope up with depression. In a feature published on CNN, Melinda Ring, MD, FACP shared how social media helped his son overcome his anxiety and depression. However, she also warns of the negative impacts of social media misuse. Dr. Ring said, “Overuse of social media can become negative, associated with increased depression and low body image issues.” Parents and teachers need to remind children that social media is a double-edged sword. Their online pranks and the language they use have negative consequences. Since most of the social media platforms are still text-based, interpreting a comment or status message’s tone is difficult. A playful remark or friendly joke may be taken seriously by others.

Everything they share online is permanent

Kids have to remember that there’s no reset or erase button on the Internet. The photos, videos, and comments they either shared or posted online stay permanent. You need to teach your child to calm down when dealing with strong emotional responses. Getting into an argument online can cloud their judgment and dive into the heat of the moment. Remind your kids to stay away from situations which could cause heightened emotions. Angry comments or status messages can be deleted, but the negative experience they caused is permanent.

Remind them to watch their language when online

Parents would usually remind their children to watch their language when talking to other people. However, kids often forget this once they’re online. They would resort to typing in all caps or name-calling. Child psychologists advise parents to make their children aware of their language online. Kids may be unaware of the language they use, but parents should teach them to think twice before hitting the Send button. Tell them to avoid typing in all caps because it’s basically shouting online. Encourage your child to refrain from posting negative things about someone on their status messages. Instead, they should talk to their friend personally to avoid damaging their online reputation. Healthy relationships are built around good and effective forms of communication.

Teach them to focus on positive social media posts and avoid digital drama

Online comments, instant messages, and texts are considered as “spur-of-the-moment” conversations. These appeal to kids as it helps them connect with friends even if they’re not there physically. However, these conversations can lead to conflicts and digital drama. Tell your child to log out of their social media accounts or ignore negative text messages. Explain to them that engaging in digital drama wouldn’t do them any good. In fact, it could destroy relationships. It’s better to leave the conversation and wait for the right time to talk. Remind them to avoid spreading rumors or posting sarcastic comments. Instead, they should focus on posting positive posts on social media. Spreading a positive vibe online helps make the world a better place.

Training your kids about social media etiquette is an ongoing process. As parents, we can use real-life experiences to teach them to become better online citizens.

Visit the MomSecure blog to learn more about digital citizenship and online safety.

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