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How to Shape Your Kids' Character in the Social Media Age

Teen girls looking at a smartphone

Our kids are growing up in a generation that is saturated with social media. As if navigating the challenges of adolescence weren’t already hard enough, today’s teens and tweens have the ever-present barometer of likes, comments, online friends, cyberbullying, and screen addictions. If you’re wondering how to shape your kids’ character in the swirling winds of social media, you’re not alone. It can feel daunting to teach our children to create positive habits on social media and to steward the platform they’ve been given. In her book Liked, Kari Kampakis offers helpful tips we can teach our children—and her words are mighty powerful for adults, too.

Know Your Followers. People can stalk you without your knowledge, and they can easily create an identity that’s far from the truth. The internet is populated with trolls and predators. You’ve got to be careful about who you let follow you. If someone looks questionable, if they use an anonymous name, if they have no identifying pictures, block that person. If they bully you or anyone else online, block that person. This is a space where you don’t need to give someone a second chance. Know your followers, and block as needed. Avoid any apps that promote secrecy or allow people to be anonymous.

Ask Yourself Three Questions. Before you post, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Even if it’s true, it may not be necessary to say out loud, especially in this public forum. Ask these questions before you post.

Be Very Sure. Countless social media train wrecks could have been prevented if people took the time to ask themselves, Am I sure I want to post this? Pause and think before you post pictures and thoughts online. Remember that once it’s out there, it can become impossible to wipe the slate clean. What you put online creates a digital record that is attached to your name for many years into the future. If you’re unsure, don’t post it.

If You Are Unhappy, Stay Off Social Media. We all have mood swings, and if you’re online when you’re in a bad mood, you’re far more likely to post something you’ll regret later. The internet isn’t a place to vent, rant, air dirty laundry, or publicly call people out on the ways they’ve wronged you. Before going online at all, be sure you’re in a good headspace. If scrolling through other people’s moments makes you feel left out, sad, or envious, stay offline or delete the app.

Learn from Mistakes – Yours and Other People’s. Every social media choice has consequences. Everything you share, even in a private text with someone you trust, can potentially go viral and become visible to thousands upon thousands of people. A split-second screenshot of your message or photo can set a wrecking ball in motion. Online mistakes lead to public humiliation. Before you share something with someone, picture it splashed across the front page of the newspaper or on tonight’s news. If you don’t want it there, don’t share it at all.