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Snapchat. Twitter. Instagram. Even Facebook. We’ve had the opportunity to speak in many schools in Red Deer and Central Alberta over the last few years about  social media. We talk to kids about how to use social media positively, how to be safe, and how to create a good digital history.

In every session, we take a poll.

“Who’s on Facebook?”  Hands go up.

“Who’s on Twitter?” Hands go up.

“Who’s on Instagram/Snapchat?” Almost all hands go up.

“Who’s parents know they’re on Instagram/Snapchat?” Too many hands go down.

We get it. Social media can be a scary place, and why would you put your kids in harm’s way. You’ve heard awful things about Snapchat. You’re not sure how Instagram works. The fact is, they’re going to be there at some point. You can let them figure it out for themselves, or you can guide them.

When do you let your kids use a social platform? When they start asking, you have to start the conversation.

Too many kids start accounts secretly. That’s where kids get into trouble. They don’t know how it works, and if something goes wrong, they’re scared to tell their parents because they weren’t supposed to be there.

All they hear, everywhere they go, is talk about social media. They’ve likely played with Snapchat filters on a friend’s phone. They’re very curious, and they see “everyone else having fun.”

You might as well guide them through it. Work together. Give them information, and boundaries. Set up the account together and review the followers often, together. Set up your own account if you don’t have one, and experience it together.

And if your answer is “no”, tell them exactly why, and  when you’ll consider it for them. Be sure you know why you’re saying “no” yourself too. Remember, the internet was scary once too, and we don’t hesitate to let our kids do a google search for a school project. There are lots of positive reasons for social media. Focus on those when making the decision, while recognizing and educating on the negatives as well.

If you need help, we’ll be offering parent/child workshops through the summer.