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How to Create a Social Media Contract With Your Kids
by Nicholas Pell
It's no surprise that social media is filled with dangers for young people. Online predators, identity thieves, bullies and other threats loom large. Like any concerned parent, you want to protect your kids as much as you can. One way you can let your kids know you're involved and educate them about potential dangers is to create a social media contract.
What's a Social Media Contract?
A social media contract is, in brief, a contract between you and your kids with regard to social media use. It outlines their privileges and responsibilities, sets boundaries and tells them the consequences of breaking those boundaries.
Perhaps more importantly, it also outlines your responsibilities to your child. Your partnership enables your child to get some experience on social media while also letting them know that you're there to help.
Step 1: Outline Child Responsibilities
Draw up your child's responsibilities and boundaries for social media use together. Some things to consider include:
- Rules regarding the privacy of others on shared devices
- Guidelines regarding what types of files can be downloaded, and how and when
- A clear statement that the child will never share personal information online, along with a clear description of what "personal information" includes
- An ethical agreement regarding what kind of content the child may and may not post online
- A description of when the child will seek help from parents
- Boundaries about meeting with online friends in the real world
The more specific you can get, the better the results will be. For example, make it clear that your child may never use a shared device to "snoop" on a sibling. Prohibit any downloading without permission. Agree that your child must inform you when anyone uses obscene language with them. Make your rules specific enough to be understood but general enough to cover a number of situations.
Step 2: Discuss Parent Responsibilities
A social media contract goes both ways. Your child agrees to abide by safe and responsible behavior, and you agree not to punish them unfairly and to help them if and when they exhibit a momentary lapse in judgment. Your side of the contract should stress that you are there to help the child with any problems -- whether the problems are caused by their behavior or the behavior of others.
You should also let your child know that you understand that friendships are often made online now. While you can provide oversight, you probably can't ban them from making new friends online.
Finally, let the child know what your privacy boundaries are. For example, when is it justified for you to look at their emails?
Step 3: Review the Contract Together
Once the contract is drawn up, allow for open and honest communication. Listen to your child's concerns and answer any questions. This will help you avoid any problems down the road.
Once the contract is reviewed, sign it and post it somewhere heavily trafficked. Review it from time to time and revise it as necessary. Things change, and your contract should be a living document to reflect the way technology changes and your child matures.
Remember: The contract is there to ensure that you're a part of your child's life online. Ideally, your children will come to you with problems, not shut you out due to fear. Use this contract as the beginning of that kind of communication -- not the end.
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