Social Media Sharing: A Community Guide

Steward technology experts weigh in on the best ways to approach, monitor children’s social media usage.

What can our adult community do to ensure that students can communicate wisely and effectively?

Mr. Brannon: It is vitally important that we teach students how to communicate effectively and responsibly in these new channels. Traditional instruction prepared students for a world of face-to-face interactions. Modern instruction must prepare students for professional interactions in a range of settings, with an emphasis on remote communication. For example, Steward teachers in Middle and Upper School give lessons on writing emails professionally, noting how the lack of face-to-face context and cues can distort tone and meaning. Considering the importance of email in college instruction and the business world, this is vitally important for students to learn as we fulfill our mission.

Teaching responsible and healthy use of social media is also about character education: empathy, respect, and citizenship. The more students study and understand how social media impact the lives of individuals, friends, families, peers, communities, and world, the better equipped they are to understand the responsibility that comes with the privilege to communicate freely. The more they understand the effects and potential risks of using social media, the more likely they are to pause before acting impulsively. If our students manage to develop skills as savvy, responsible communicators in this new digital age, then they will be the first generation truly and fully to harness its potential for their personal and professional lives.

Mrs. Ricketts: In the physical world, most parents limit the time of day and the places their children can go exploring on their own. With the advent of social media and virtual reality, exploring online can be pretty close to physically being somewhere. So it’s logical that a concerned parent would impose some rules about when and where a child may go online. This may involve a little research. Just as you might call the parents hosting a slumber party to make sure an adult will actually be at home, you may also spend some time exploring a social media site before turning your child loose. Some of the questions you might ask yourself include:

  • How do users on the site communicate with each other (text, images, videos, real-time)?
  • What safety features are built into the site? Does it allow for anonymity, GPS tracking, advertising, and/or in-app purchasing?
  • Is anyone monitoring the site for appropriate use?
  • Is there a way to report inappropriate use?
  • Does the site have "sticky" features that are designed to make users come back, leading to more time online and upsetting the balance of being present in the real world?

All reputable sites should have a section that clearly explains information about settings, policies, terms of use, and how the information on the site is shared with third parties. A high quality site will include information about the research that went into its development. Common Sense Media reviews and rates all the well-known social media sites, including a section on each called “What Parents Need to Know.” They also provide information for families who are wondering how to better manage their children’s social media use.

Even after you have done your homework on these topics, consider spending some time exploring and discussing the site with your child. It’s a good chance to talk about your family’s vision of how social media fits into your lives. Set limits and check in from time to time—all Terms of Service say they are “subject to change without notice.” Most importantly, keep an open dialogue with your child about what they are doing online.

Ms. Coates: Families should be familiar with the Terms of Service for different social media platforms that their children might use. Most social media platforms use the age of 13 or older to be the minimum age for someone to create an account. Once a user is 13, most social media platforms will not delete an account based on a parent wanting to remove their child from that platform.

It is also important to control your child’s devices and/or access to social media. Parents should be in charge of the electronic devices that their children use, including those issued by the school. Best practices for students to use electronic devices include keeping them out of children’s bedrooms. This is a good idea for people of any age.

Also, make time with devices purposeful: if students are using a device for homework, be specific about where students can use the device and how long the students should be using it. If students are using devices for social media, families should be intentional with their children about how social media is being used and how often.

Click on each question below to view responses from our technology experts:





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