Special Guest Columnist
Mrs. Monica Lewis
If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve already drilled your children about the dangers of social media. But, just in case all your talks, threats, and tricks have fallen on deaf ears, I have some practical tips that every parent should apply if you have children who have access to technology.
Let’s be clear; if your child goes to school, he or she has access to social media. The average student spends approximately 9 hours a day engaging with social media and technology. Social media apps and technology have become a routine part of our existence. Just think about it, even the most exclusive restaurants and stores have social media pages, and would entice you to buy, like, share, or follow. The same is true for your children as well. Advertisers and companies are targeting children to sell all types of products. Just because your child may not have a cell phone, doesn’t mean that they don’t have social media presence. Schools are increasingly becoming more virtual (e.g. Schooloogy, Think Through Math, Google Classroom, YouTube, Air Puzzle), which requires each student to access content from various sites and apps. Although most of their time online should be devoted to academics, the truth of the matter is the temptation to wander and surf the web is real. So, I’m going to share my tips for hardworking, busy parents with school-age children.
PRIVACY IS FOR ADULTS—According to Nielson Research Group, society spends 121 billion minutes per month on social media. The largest users are age 13-17 and account for more traffic than all other segments combined. It would be impossible for you to monitor everything your child sees online; however, you should always have full access to all your child’s social media and internet activity.
Not sure where to start? There are a few programs that will help you monitor your child’s web and social media activity. There are hundreds of options, but we’ve found some that work well for parents on-the-go.
- QUSTODIO— can monitor up to 15 devices. Can also monitor & block text/SMS messages. Allows parents to monitor from their PC, Phone, or tablet.
- NETNANNY— Net Nanny’s award-winning technology filters, monitors, and blocks unsafe materials while allowing kids access to the Internet. Supports multiple platforms including Windows, MAC, Android, and iOS.
- SET BOUNDARIES—You should establish clear and consistent rules regarding the use of social media and the web for your child. The rules for usage should establish what you as the parent consider “ACCEPTABLE” and “UNACCEPTABLE” behavior online. We also strongly suggest you establish a time schedule and limit their activity to only those times you’ve established. Don’t let your child sleep with the device(s) in their room. You should have a designated charging station in your home for all devices that you can monitor and access. During the docking and charging times, is the best time for you to Troll & Scroll. Troll & Scroll is when you log in to your child’s device to see what and where they’ve been online. The best place to start in in their browser history.
Not sure how to access the browser history?
KNOW THEIR PASSWORDS— This may seem like a no-brainer, but we must mention this. Knowing their email password isn’t enough. You should know EVERY account ID and password. Test them regularly. Don’t take it for granted that it’s the same for all their accounts. If you can’t access the account, make them log in and give you their password. If all else fails, confiscate their devices and suspend their use. Internet service providers like Xfinity/Comcast offer services that can block all internet browsing on your home servers. Contact them for more information.
BEWARE OF GHOST/VAULT APPS
There are a couple of ways to identify if your child is hiding their social media apps from you — several of them are apps themselves! Here’s some info we found on TeenSafe.com
- POOF is an app that you need to be familiar with because it allows teens to make apps, they don’t want others to see, disappear. Although this app is no longer available, your child may still have it and use it. Also, similar apps are created regularly, so it’s a good idea to search online periodically for newer apps with these capabilities and see if your child has downloaded any of them.
- VAULTY is an app for Android phones that allows you to create a password-protected ‘Vault” in which media such as photos and videos can be hidden away from the main image gallery. Vaulty will also take a picture of any person who tries to access the Vault with the wrong password.
- HIDE IT PRO is like Vaulty but is available for both Android and iPhone smartphones. It allows you to hide media, and the app itself is disguised as an audio manager. Visit TeenSafe.com
That’s enough to get you started. Next time we’ll tackle how to address pranks, challenges videos, and posts. Above all, maintain your power as the parent. Protecting your children is a great responsibility. Using these tips can help you protect your babies as the explore social media and technology.
Monica Lewis is a leading expert in the industry of etiquette, protocol and the founder of The Monica Lewis School of Etiquette (http://MLSOE.com/). She is also an avid believer that social presence and behaviors are essential to be successful in today’s society. Seeking to promote awareness of this fact, Monica is a passionate instructor who is dedicated to providing quality and professional training to her clients. With more than ten years of experience, Mrs. Lewis is renowned for her vibrant personality and highly interactive presentation skills.
She’s the author of “Say Yes to Manners” (dual language English/Spanish), “Practice Good Manners” Workbook and co-author of the “Breaking BAD in Business” series. As an author, motivational speaker, wife, and mother, Monica is committed to bringing a positive change everywhere she goes. She is actively involved in her church, community organizations, and schools. She also devotes many hours to mentoring teenage girls and boys across the country.