I still remember the first time I went online via dial up. To think, now the internet is at our fingertips and there is no getting around it. Oh how the times have changed. I admit that I am not the most internet savvy person. I don’t tweet or subscribe to any blogs,but I realize that as a pediatrician I need to be aware of the internet and social media to relate to my patients.
Kids are using the internet for everything these days. Long gone are the hours spent flipping through an encyclopedia for school projects. Today I am going to focus on what you as parents need to know about your children and social media.
Get to know what your children do online and become familiar with the websites and social media venues that they frequent. Sometimes it even helps to make a profile for yourself so you can interact with your children online and oversee what they are doing.
Make sure that you talk with your children about the internet. Bring it up daily at the dinner table and make it a part of your routine to ask what’s going on in their virtual lives. It may help, especially for younger children, to keep the computer in a central place in your house so that you can keep track of how much time they are devoting to the internet and keep an eye on the websites they access. Make sure that your children understand that you will be watching their online activity — it may even be beneficial to subscribe to a monitoring program. In fact, many internet providers have parental controls that you can activate.
It is also important to limit the time your children spend online in front of a computer or watching TV to no more than two hours each day. Encourage them to do something active every day instead of sitting idle with their technology.
Some other tips to share with your children include:
• Only post what you are okay with everyone seeing. Privacy is a myth in the social media world.
• Be sure to discuss password safety and make sure your children know not to share their personal information,especially because people online are not always who they say they are.
• Discourage your children from online gossip and bullying. This is a huge problem and can lead to depression and even suicide in the involved parties.
If you and your family are educated about appropriate online use and have set boundaries of when your children can be online and what websites they can visit, then the internet can be a very useful and safe tool.
If you would like more information the American Academy of Pediatrics has a great website devoted to internet safety: safetynet.aap.org/.
Dr. Callie Byrd is a pediatrician with Valley Medical Center’s Covington Clinic South. She can be reached at 253-395-1960. If you have a question you would like Dr. Byrd to address in her column, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.