Teach your children to use social media responsibly

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Social media is both helpful and harmful, according to a new clinical report by The American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adol-escents, and Families,” published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics. A co-author of the report, Gwenn O’Keeffe, M.D., said, “For some teens and tweens (youth approximately between the ages of 9 and 13 years,) social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than at the mall or a friend’s house. A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world—and comfortably parent in that world.” 

So what can parents do to parent comfortably in an online world? O’Keeffe suggests that parents do the following:

•Talk to youth about the dangers of cyberbullying, sexual predators who text and difficulties managing time for the other activities of their lives.

•Warn kids about giving out personal information online. Doing so could harm their reputations and safety.

•Become better educated about the technologies their youth are using so they can understand and also participate.

•Create an online-use plan for the kids and adult family members, so that time is left for fun with friends, community involvement, physical exercise and real-time family recreation.

•Set reasonable limits for time and intensity of use.

Parents should also look for the positive influences of social media. These include enhancing communication, helping social interaction along, and developing technical skills. Social media can be a force for enhancing youth development if used wisely.

Reference: Social media and kids: Some benefits, some worries (3/28/2011). Healthy children online newsletter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessible at http://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Social-Media-and-Kids-.... Retrieved 10/10/2011.

Source: Carole Gnatuk, Senior Extension Specialist for Child Development, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.