Children and Social Media
It’s almost impossible for children to grow up these days without having exposure to and experience with social media. The world of social media is a tricky place for anyone, let alone children. Not everything about it is bad. Used properly, it’s a great way to interact with friends and keep up with important information. And though it’s up to parents to decide if and when to let their children join social media platforms, we believe it’s never too soon to start teaching your child the skills they’ll need to have to be responsible users and good stewards of this ever-evolving technology.
Character education is an important part of growing up in a world run by social media. It’s also one of the pillars of our guiding philosophy at Kiddie Academy® Educational Child Care. The Character EssentialsSM component of our curriculum encourages us to use each interaction as an opportunity to teach your child important character-building traits.
We asked Sharon Pindell, a Training Project Manager in the Kiddie Academy Education Department, to talk about ways in which Character Essentials can prepare children well in advance for the world they will grow up in – one in which social media is pervasive and necessary. Here’s what she told us:
Character Essentials Traits Most Important for Using Social Media:
Respect: recognizing and appreciating the rights, beliefs, practices and differences of other people; the way you feel about someone and how you treat them
Teach children to be kind to others – including on social media and avoid cyber-bullying. Create a relationship with your child where they are not afraid to come to you if they do something wrong or observe troubling behavior in siblings or friends. That will come in handy when they are of social media-using age.
Attentiveness: caring for or seeing to the needs of someone or something; being mindful of others’ needs and wants
Teach children to pay attention to who may be reaching out to them on social media and to be aware of who they may friend, contact or follow on social media. Encourage children to identify and recognize their “gut feelings” on issues at a young age, and they will be better prepared to navigate the realm of social media in a responsible way.
Generosity: giving or sharing what you have with others, including your time and attention
Social media has many good uses. Show children that we can use social media as a platform to share their time, fundraise, help others or raise awareness for a good cause.
Helpfulness: giving assistance when someone is in need
Teach children that we can use social media as a platform to help others; raise awareness when the community or neighbors are in need. Helping with a clothing or food drive, for example.
Thoughtfulness: showing consideration for the needs of other people
Teach children to be thoughtful and show consideration for others. If they can understand how to thoughtfully treat others, they’ll be a step ahead in social media commenting in the future.
Creativity: developing and expressing one’s self and ideas in new ways
Teach children to use their creativity. Encourage children to use their talents and ideas in a positive way when they are young and they just may become the next YouTube sensation or positive-vibes influencer.
Acceptance: treating everyone with respect and understanding regardless of differences; understanding how we are alike and different
Teach children acceptance at a young age will encourage them to be accepting of others and be advocates for others.
Loyalty: feeling devotion or faithfulness toward family members, friends, country or causes in which one believes
Children who are loyal will inherently be loyal to friends online when they get older. It is important to teach children to protect and defend others from harm or hurt online.
Self-Awareness: having a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires
Teach children to understand their own character and how to stay true to themselves. This trait takes a lifetime to work on and will serve your child well not just on social media, but in all settings.
Self-Regulation: using the strategies and skills necessary to control one’s emotions, reactions and behavior in different situations
Teach children how to think before they act. Help them develop the ability to control their emotions and they’ll have appropriate willpower when using social media and interacting properly with others online.
Empathy: understanding and caring about how someone else is feeling
When children learn empathy at an early age, they will be well-prepared in young adulthood to take an empathetic approach before posting online or be empathetic of others and reach out to their friends to provide support.
Honesty: the act of telling the truth and acting truthfully
Teach children to be honest when seeing negativity, and to be honest about yourself and be proud of who you are.
Accountability: being responsible for his or her own actions and behaviors; following rules and expectations; the ability to make good choices
Teach children to be accountable for their actions now. When they get older, they’ll be able to apply that skill in knowing that when they post pictures or other things that those posts will never go away. Children who are accountable will follow the rules and make better choices when posting.
Carefulness: being observant and paying attention
It is important for children to be observant and cautious. Once they become social media users, carefulness will help them be aware of falsehoods and understand that things aren’t always what they seem to be.
Dependability: the quality of being trustworthy and reliable
Teaching children to be dependable will also carry over to how they act online and understand the cause and effect when letting someone down. It is important that children learn to be dependable so that they can be the responsible social media users of the future.
Positivity: looking at the positive (good) side of things
Teach children to be positive so that one day, they will use online platforms for good, charity, community awareness, fundraising, and helping others or to spread joy.
Sharon also reminds us that if you’re a parent, teacher or both, role modeling is important. Kids will take cues for their behavior from how you interact with those around you and use social media.
Here are some books she recommends for getting more information on this subject:
Concepts preschoolers could understand. These books could help to spark conversations:
“Unplugged,” by Steve Antony (about the fun you can have while being “unplugged”)
“The Fabulous Friend Machine,” by Nick Bland
“Chicken Clicking,” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
“Webster’s Manners,” by Hannah Whaley (rules for being polite with technology)
“Webster’s Bedtime,” by Hannah Whaley
For older children
“Webster’s Friend,” by Hannah Whaley
“The Berenstain Bear’s Computer Trouble,” by Jan and Mike Berenstain
“If You give a Mouse an iPhone,” by Ann Droyd
“Nerdy Birdy Tweets,” by Aaron Reynolds
“Once Upon a time… Online: Happily Ever After is Only a Click Away,” by David Bedford
“The Technology Tail,” by Julia Cook
“#Goldilocks: A Hashtag Cautionary Tale,” by Jeanne Willis
Thanks for all the terrific information, Sharon!
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