5 Social Media Rules I’m Setting for My Kids to Avoid Cyber-Bullying


Deanna Kent-McDonald is the guest blogger for this post. She’s the mom of some super-fabulously-amazing boys and a writer for Disney Club Penguin.

Tween: “I need to get on Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Vine, Facebook …”

Me: “NEED? Really? Let’s think about that. You need food. Not Facebook.”

Tween: “Mom. I’m old enough. ALL MY FRIENDS are on those.”

Me: “Oh, really? I’m the ONLY evil parental unit?”

Tween: “Yes.”

One of my sons, who is about to turn 13, has a full-on campaign going for my consent to allow him to break into the realm of social media. I’ll admit, I’m not over-the-moon to have him even more socially connected. It’s already hard enough trying to keep up with all the different YouTube personalities he’s obsessed with.

In general, I’m pretty pro-world-wide-web. I work at Club Penguin — Disney’s #1 virtual world for kids. Its social community is really awesome for kids. Club Penguin is heavily committed to online safety and that means real-life moderators and super-smart chat filters. Unfortunately for parents, the Internet is generally without those safety features. And is it just me or does anyone else see the age of 13 as a REALLY volatile time to hand over the keys to this largely, unregulated Internet world?

Lots of my friends are concerned with their kids being victims of cyber-bullying. I get it. But I’m a bit of a realist, too. So with four boys in my house, I’m a parent worried about BOTH sides of the bullying issue. What if my kid is bullied? ALSO … What if my kid bullies someone else?

From my perspective, tweens and teens have characteristics that could create the perfect cyberstorms. First, their age group can have big IMPULSE control issues. Second, they’ve got a great need to be accepted. Doesn’t that just feel like the worst combination?

After a LOT of agonizing, I’ve decided to approach this issue differently. My house is usually quite democratic. But for this situation, it will be a dictatorship. For all the kids in my house, their introduction to social media is going to be kind of like parole. I’m ditching the “innocent until proven guilty” philosophy here. There’s just too much at stake. So here’s the plan:

1. There will be time limits.

Social media time isn’t going to be allowed from morning to night. I’m going to allow it to happen when I can be around to help promote THINKING rather than reacting.

2. They will have to ask permission to post someone’s picture or video.

I don’t love the thought of people just posting pictures of me without my permission. I want my kids to always ask permission before publishing someone’s picture or a video.

3. I will know all their passwords.

There will be no secret passwords in my house. You want an account? You’re handing passwords over.

4. I’ll be doing regular spot checks.

Just like a parole officer making unexpected visits, I’ll be checking up on every single thing they post.

5. I’ll also be doing some overt stalking.

I’ll be your Facebook friend. I’ll retweet your tweets and “like” your posts. It’s not enough for my kids to know I’m all over their social media accounts, but their friends and followers are gonna know I’m there, too.

So this parole experiment is going to be interesting. I really do think it comes down to some really hands-on coaching like nothing I’ve ever done before. But it’s really important that my kids know I’m there to protect them. From others — and maybe even from themselves.

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, Babble and Club Penguin are teaming up with PACER Center and Twigtale to create a custom book on bullying prevention for parents.

Join us in celebrating Unity Day on October 22 by “going orange” to take a stand against bullying. Post your orange pride on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #UnityDay2014!

Image courtesy of ThinkStock

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