The Importance of Social Media Etiquette
There used to be a time where keeping our kids safe merely involved teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, basic communication skills, and stranger danger.
Even though those are still much-needed life skills, raising children with Autism or Asperger’s today presents a variety of unique hurdles that we often overlook.
One area of concern is technology and social media use. Not surprisingly, our kids are plugged in and using their devices to connect with the world through social media, video games, videos, and more.
To put this in perspective, the average teen in the United States spends roughly 9 hours every day consuming media.
Our sons and daughters, like many of their peers, use their devices to get valuable interaction and communication opportunities.
However, hidden behind those glowing screens are some unseen pitfalls.
As parents of kids who are on the spectrum, we owe it to our teens and young adults to give them the tools and guidance to learn social media etiquette so they can safely navigate the digital world.
To help on this journey, scroll through the following tips for teaching social media etiquette to teens and young adults.
Start a conversation about common dangers lurking on social media.
We are raising digital natives, kids who can’t remember a time before cell phones and internet, so it is important we empower them with information to avoid the dangers of social media. Start an ongoing dialogue about problems like cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, oversharing, identity theft, and fake information.
Follow the “Grandma Rule"
Our kids need to understand that anything they post online has the potential to be seen by anyone. A good rule of thumb is to only post comments or photos that grandma would approve. This simple concept can help define what is acceptable to share online and what behaviors are allowed.
Our teens need to understand there are serious consequences for poor online behaviors. This may be difficult for some of our children to grasp, but we can work on these social skills by role-playing appropriate social media etiquette. Over time, they will learn the skills needed to use social media and other platforms safely. As an added bonus, these conversations will help our children know when they should notify us if they encounter any problems.
Stay in the loop
We need to realize 70 percent of teens hide their online activity from us. And our kids are no exception. It is vital we stay current with trends, social media platforms, and know the sites our teens use. We can ask our kids to friend us online, set up parental controls on sites like Snapchat, and periodically check their online activity.
Remember the Internet never forgets
Teens and young adults need to understand that everything posted online, even disappearing messages, can be saved with a screenshot or be retrieved later.
Make sure teens and young adults know it’s alright to just “say no" to sexting
We all know teens and young adults on the spectrum sometimes struggle reading social cues or noticing when someone is taking advantage of them. We need to make sure they understand requests to send racy selfies or videos can be dangerous. ALL kids need to know that they can say no to sexting. If a person truly cares about them, he or she will ultimately respect their decision to avoid sexting.
Help adjust privacy settings
Today, many sites track locations, search histories, and online interactions without us being any the wiser which creates a gap in our child’s privacy settings. Fill the void by making sure a child has adequate privacy settings turned on and isn’t actively sharing their locations online. Take this one step further by teaching them to avoid sharing personal information, addresses, schedules, and contact information.
Tell children to notify a trusted adult if they encounter anything online that makes them uncomfortable
Cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content flood social media sites. In fact, it is believed that the rates of cyberbullying have tripled. This is even more worrisome for us because children with special needs like Autism are targeted five times as often when it comes to bullying. Encourage them to ask for help when they encounter a problem or a confusing post so we can stop the problem before it becomes a serious issue.
Create a family technology contract
As a family, create a document that clearly identifies all your expectations and consequences of using technology and social media. This will ensure everyone understands the rules and prevents disagreements. For our boys and girls, this will also give them concrete examples of how to behave online.
How do you teach social media etiquette to teens and young adults?
Thanks to Amy Williams for this guest post.