Parents: A 7 Step Social Media Introduction Model for Healthy Internet Use for Our Kids

Our world is becoming more and more digital all of the time; a whopping 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smartphone. With a smartphone comes a whole lot of responsibility to keep safe online, which we as parents should be controlling. We MUST equip and prepare our kids, not only to be safe but to be amazing online citizens and advocates for Jesus. For this to happen we can’t rely on an approach based on sheltering, instead we need to engage and walk with our children as they learn appropriate behavior in a world that seems almost unattached to what is real around them. The internet can be a dangerous place to be for anyone, especially if you don’t have the relevant safety features incorporated into your devices. People can track you online without you even knowing, but enabling the use of a VPN can make it significantly harder for them to do so. That’s why choosing the best one for you is important. Surfshark VPN compared against NordVPN is the most common comparison amongst VPNs, and many people decide to weigh up the pros and cons of these before making a final decision. Alternatively, some people might decide to use a proxy for this. Perhaps parents should consider taking some time to visit to get a proxy implemented. Proxies can restrict certain websites, ensuring that the children are unable to access them. Perhaps that might be worth doing to make sure children remain safe online. As our kids grow older, their safety is even more imperative. The following is what we believe and have found to be an effective “graduated” approach to introducing our kids to the online world including social media in a way that encourages balance, moderation and positive impact.

As you read and apply keep in mind that the progressive introduction of the internet to our kids requires regular and progressive conversation and intentional relationship.

Implementing RULES without intentional RELATIONSHIP almost always results in REBELLION.

1. Pray and discuss with your spouse; what your guidelines and boundaries are going to be and write them down to refer to later. Maintain an open dialogue of education with your children on the dangers and role of parents to protect and prepare! Then MODEL it, we can’t very well expect our kids to do something we aren’t willing to do ourselves.

2. Use parents’ devices; cell phones should be for EMERGENCY only…when left alone, going to a friends, etc….They need to use your devices and hand them in immediately afterwards to encourage trust, responsibility and respect. You will quickly notice what your child’s tendency towards these devices is, you may also be surprised to find that they are modeling what they see, or think they see you doing.

3. Start simple; Gauging the maturity of your child as you consider introducing them to things like iPod shuffles and Nintendo DS’s at 8/9. The Shuffle only has music and the Wi-Fi on the DS should be turned off so that there is no option for browsing the internet. You can play family-friendly games by, for example, using this Mario Kart ROM Download for NDS. They have multiplayer options so you can use the devices to play as a family, making gaming a social experience. It will be important to have standards in the house, appropriate times to use the devices and times where they aren’t allowed. Be sure to give reasons like “family and real life people come first” when you set boundaries around device use. Our kids know that gaming devices are for long car rides only, and iPods have to be put away when around other people, or listened to by everyone on a stereo.

4. Introduce an iPod Touch around age 10-12; We encourage you to make sure that your child is helping pay for it by working for it. Delayed gratification and killing their sense of entitlement are important.

At this stage the following limitations should exist:

  • They should not have the iTunes Password
  • Their passwords for apps and the iPod itself should be known by parents
  • Safari and YouTube should be removed
  • No Apps like Facebook or Instagram should be permitted yet…trust with general use needs to be established first
  • Approve & Monitor: understanding that you will check and that nothing is private, just as anything online is public is important.
  • A community “charging site” should be established in parents room and the device should be handed in before bed
  • Establish family times when the iPod should not be used (dinner time, bedtime, family time)
  • Texting through the Apple ID is an option at this stage. Monitoring this as the beginning stages of trust establishment can be good. Our preference is to start without texting first and to add it after the general use patterns and guidelines are established.

5. Introduction to Apps (13); Begin processing and discerning apps together ??Facebook, Social media introduction is important and Facebook is a good place to start, even if they don’t want it. Its a good place to stay in the loop and discern your child’s awareness of what is appropriate for public expression and what isn’t.

  • The Password for iTunes is still held only by parents and personal passwords are not kept.
  • Research and discussion should be involved with the addition of each app and request for new apps made by your child.
  • Instagram is also a good place to help your child learn and discern what kind of photos to post.
  • From the very beginning your children should know that their accounts’ passwords are NEVER a secret from you. They can’t believe that these accounts are private, too often they treat them like journals.

6. ?Pay as You Go plan (age 15-16); Our children need to understand the cost of these devices in order to learn about responsibility and management of time/priority – this also helps avoid the classic unexpected $400 cell bills!! If pay as you go is not an option try to discern an approach involving their paying for it no matter what structure you chose for payment.

  • Community charging station and non-privacy elements continue through this stage as well.
  • Schedule occasional monitoring, possibly to be done along side your teen in order to foster discussion rather than create an environment of spying and hiding.

7. Buy Their Own Phone (6 months to a year after the pay as you go option);

  • Standards “privilege, not a right…can still be taken back”
  • Monitor less as they move toward greater independence AND greater need to learn from their own mistakes.

There are varying elements for different families but overall this approach will work and will help equip your child for a productive and healthy respect for technology and social media. They will eventually move out and at that point they are released to engage without your observation or guidance so we need to prepare them while we are able.

Internet and device use are a privilege, be sure to wrap all of your conversations and family standards in that truth.

Additional links:

Dr. Dave’s Cell Phone Sanity, a Graduated System for Cell Phone Introduction

Filters for every device in your home – There is a need for all devices in your home to be filtered. This article also gives names of sites and programs that will help you monitor text messages, Instagram and Facebook accounts if you find the need.

The Three Layered Approach to Internet Security– The how to and why’s of the filters listed above.