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Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students

Although it might seem early, elementary-age is the best time to introduce basic concepts of social media. Here are the key concepts you'll want to address.

Young kids today face a completely different digital landscape than what their parents experienced growing up. It’s natural to want to block your kids’ access to social media completely, but even if that were possible, it’s not recommended.  

Social media use helps broaden communication skills, deepen social connections, and increase technical know-how. Although it might seem early, elementary-age is the best time to introduce basic concepts of social media. Here are the key concepts you’ll want to address.

Use Privacy Settings

At the most basic level, you want to explain the difference between Public and Friends-Only settings. Also, introduce some more advanced concepts, such as what the GPS locator on a phone does and why you shouldn’t give your email address to anyone you don’t know.

Children struggle with the concept of online privacy. You’ll likely need to explain its importance several times. Plus, make sure you regularly double-check the privacy settings on their social media pages.

Develop Healthy Skepticism

Teach kids that people online aren’t always who they seem. At the elementary age, they should avoid becoming friends with anyone online who they don’t know personally. Typically, their friend list should consist of family members and a few close friends from school. 

Teach them to tell you if anyone they don’t know attempts to contact them online.

Post Appropriately

Remind your children that the Golden Rule applies not just in person but online as well. They should always treat others as they want to be treated.

Cyberbullying starts as young as eight years old. Not only should you teach your children to avoid posting anything negative about others online, but you also want to encourage them to tell you if anyone posts something negative about them.    

Avoid Oversharing

Kids can accidentally reveal private information online. Teach them to never post their address, the name of their school, or other information that a stranger could use to track them.

Along these same lines, teach young kids to limit their posting. Not every event in their life should be shared on social media. Help them understand how a social media post is different from a private journal.

Reflect Before Posting

Teach your children not to post in the immediate aftermath of any event. It’s especially important to pause before posting anything negative. They don’t want to “lash out” at anyone online. Instead, when they feel strong emotions, encourage them to talk to you.

Act as a Role Model

Children model their parents in all sorts of ways, including their use of social media. Do you scroll through Facebook often throughout the day? Do you get into frequent online arguments? Your own social media use will greatly impact how your children will grow to view it.

Also, make sure you stay aware of current social media platforms. For example, you might not have an Instagram yourself, but you need to understand how the platform works if your child wants an account.

Supervise, but Keep a Healthy Distance

As a parent, you need access to all of your child’s social media accounts. You’ll control the passwords and keep an eye on everything they do online.

However, you also want to limit your online interactions with your child. Don’t like or comment on everything they post. Allow them to forge their own identity online and only step in when necessary.

Final Thoughts

Social media poses some risks, and can feel overwhelming, for younger kids. However, it’s important to start early when teaching them how to stay safe and act appropriately online. 

With consistent lessons throughout their elementary years, they can grow into tweens and teens with a healthy relationship with social media.


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