This post is an excerpt from the Parental Supervision Techniques from an Officer breakout session at the Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles led by Clay Cranford, Sergeant for the Orange County Sheriff Department. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.
Many parents have no knowledge of the social platforms that their kids are using. So, most of the time kids do not feel safe going to their parents for help and it stems from a very specific fear of getting in trouble and losing everything — all of their devices. Our knee-jerk reaction as a parent is to get rid of anything that is hurting our child, but our kids rank the Internet right up there with food, water, and shelter as necessities in their life.
Discuss social media
It’s possible for your child to use a friend’s phone to access Instagram and other social media apps. I see it all the time. It is important for you to have a conversation with your child about social media regardless of whether or not you have given them a device.
Understand the consequences of social media threats
Parents need to be aware of how their children handle situations as well as talk to them about the consequences of using social media
Another big issue is threats. I had a situation where a freshman high school student said something inappropriate in class, he was suspended and sent home (it was not the first time he had had this type of behavior), he found a teacher’s Instagram photo and put it on his page saying that this was the teacher who sent him home. He didn’t stop there. He then talked about how he wanted to harm her and this is considered a criminal threat by the state of California. He had no intention of hurting this teacher, he was angry, and in his mind, this was the only way that he could handle this situation. Consequently, I had to write a crime report and then this school expelled him for this behavior. These types of choices have a catastrophic impact on kids and parents need to be aware of how their children handle situations as well as talk to them about the consequences of using social media to express frustration.
Give support and have family dinners
The more family dinners that a family has each week, the more impact that it has on decreasing mental health issues.
The number one safety factor for kids is to have parents that talk to them. Parents need to supply love and support to their children or kids will look for it elsewhere. It’s a basic, essential need. One way that parents can do this is by having regular family dinners. The Pediatric Journal of the American Medical Association found that the more family dinners that a family has each week, the more impact that it has on decreasing mental health issues. A family dinner was qualified as the family coming together to eat without screens, make eye contact, and talk to one another. This is an opportunity for parents to impart wisdom and coping methods to their kids.
If your child is under 13 and they want social media, the answer should be no. Their brains are not fully developed until later in life, but that development does not start until age 13. Furthermore, social media apps ask for all users to be 13 and you do not want to teach your child that lying is okay.
These are a few of the rules that I require my kids to follow in order to use social media and I have these contracts available on my site:
- I will not give my name, address, telephone number, school name, or parent’s name to anyone I meet on the computer
- I must tell my mom or dad all my social network usernames and passwords. They have access to all of my files and can see anything on my device at any time.
- I will promote something, a charity or cause, on my social network as a condition of having a social network
- If I make a mistake or see something inappropriate, I will tell my parents as soon as possible
Then I ask my kids follow-up questions. Why do you think this is a good idea? Have you ever heard of anyone doing this before?
This one also establishes the expectation of privacy, which is zero.
My son recently got an Instagram account and we had him pick something that he cared about. We recently noticed that the organization he followed was having a 5K nearby and my son not only ran the 5K so now we are posting pictures of him at the event on his Instagram, but he also got his friends to run with them. This is a great way to get your kids involved in positive things.
Tell your kids that you expect that they will make mistakes. Tell your kids that if they make a mistake and they come to you first, right away, you will set aside the discipline and help them with the problem. However, if I find out later that you had an opportunity to tell me and you didn’t tell me then the consequences set in.