Does your family have a social media policy?

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By Sabrina Almeida

With social media becoming the dominant method of communication among kids,  it falls on parents to have a chat about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Many young people share daily events as well as vent their frustrations on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. A no-holds-barred philosophy not only jeopardizes their personal security but can also create sticky situations with extended family, friends and even school authorities, who find themselves on the receiving end of unflattering comments. In one case, it lead to a rather heated argument and rift between siblings whose kids posted negative comments about family gatherings.

While it showed poor judgement on the part of the youngsters, an objective look might reveal it was no worse than what anyone of us might express in a face-to-face or phone conversation with friends. However, the fact that it was recorded on social media magnified the ill-feeling. It also didn’t help that their accounts were open to the general public and therefore easily accessible to the offended parties. But it turned out that teenagers involved didn’t just single out certain relatives but had tweeted a string of negatives about their own parents as well over the years.

Growing up, parents and elders instructed us about being careful with our words. We must exert the same restraint with what we post on social media.

Despite all the schooling in Internet safety, many teens as well as adults seem to abandon all caution when it comes to the content they share.

One of the biggest transgressions is including personal information like date of birth in profiles and without any privacy safeguards. This is an open invitation to identity thieves and individuals trolling social sites with malicious intent. No doubt it is nice to be wished by all and sundry on your birthday but at what cost. If it means that much to you at least restrict access to your accounts.

Compromising photographs are the next big indiscretion. Raging hormones cause many youth to share sensuous pictures with individuals they are in relationship with or hope to be. However, when things sour, these can lead to cyber bulling and sexual harassment.

Recently, a friend was horrified by some Instagram posts (which she deemed as pornographic) from high-school girls who were part of her daughter’s social circle. Even more disturbing was the fact that they didn’t seem to care who saw them. Parents or prospective employers.

It is no secret that human resource personnel and recruiters check out social media profiles to gain insights into prospective hires. Sleazy pictures and unsavoury comments are likely to paint a negative picture.

Parents must insist on privacy and confidentiality with regard to self, family and friends.

Just like in school, no pictures of individuals should be taken or posted without their consent.

Having self-respect is equally critical. While the pop culture encourages us to flaunt our sexuality, prospective employers and life partners have a different moral code. Alertness to ‘stranger danger’ must be reinforced and continue beyond the elementary years. A time when a lot of the safety filters come off.

It is also important to promote a positive content policy right from the time your kids are initiated into social media. This can reduce the risk of posting embarrassing selfies and negative comments about others.

No doubt parents have a challenging task as few are privy to their children’s social media activities. This makes it difficult to monitor content or control who has access to their posts. The ideal solution is to reinforce responsible social media and Internet usage every once in a while.

Perhaps the best way to do this is lead by example. Which means resist the temptation to share every escapade and thought on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Social media is a convenient way to stay in touch with family and friends. However mental health experts say it has blurred the lines between meaningful relationships (and conversations) and casual connections. By encouraging participants to make their private lives public, it has caused them to bypass filters they would normally adhere to. Furthermore, the absence of real relationships has led to emotional dependence on the social media circle and the constant need for acknowledgement from them. Leading to  an increasing number of mental health issues.

It is important for all users to realize that online behaviour must follow the same rules as our offline code of conduct. Simply put- don’t share anything you wouldn’t say in person. Reiterate the importance of stopping for a moment before posting any photo or comment. More importantly encourage your kids to find other forms of expressing their thoughts and feelings.

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