As an Online Safety expert I speak often to large parent groups. Often parents are wondering if their child is ready for Social Media. I’ve come up with a three question litmus test. I’ve asked a lot of parents for their opinion, as well as colleagues at Intel Security, and all have said this looks solid.
- Can my child stay home alone, by themselves, for a few hours?
- Can my child confidently speak to a stranger in public? Specifically: can my child civilly divert the interest of, and break verbal contact with, a stranger who speaks to them in public?
- Does my child pass the Self Worth Test?
The Self Worth Test is something I have developed that establishes the baseline of anyone’s strength of personality. Begin by asking the person – in this case your child - to think of and name three things they love to do and do very well. These three things could be a particular sport, hobby, interest, a type of art, or association with a sub culture like Star Wars fans, a kind of knowledge like trivia, a school subject, a social skill or other soft skill, etc.
Neither of my own children pass question #1. One of them passes question #2 and both pass on question #3. This means for right now, NO SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.
Something in parallel to do with your child when this comes up is to have them listen to this YouTube video by Motivation Speaker Eric Thomas: “We are created to be individual”
My children have listened to it several times already and as we enter the question of “Dad can I have an Instagram account?” we will revisit this YT video and discuss it in detail. Again.
That video summarizes what I believe is the fundamental problem with children having Social Media accounts. I have spoken to over 23,000+ students, parents, teachers and elders about Online Safety and Social Media use. In late 2014 I was at a middle school on the East Side of San Jose and a young man asked me what to do because he had someone following him on Kik. He would create a new account and the person would find him somehow and continue to send him inappropriate messages and pictures. I stopped. Looked out the open door of the classroom at the sun lit basketball court on the blacktop. I looked back at him and asked “what do you see out there?” He said a basketball court. I nodded and said “LIFE. Life is out there. Your friends are out there. Your favorite sport is out there. How old are you son?” He said twelve. I said “You’re twelve years old man there is ZERO reason for you to be on Kik talking to people you don’t know or talking to people who harass you. Go hang out in person with your friends. Play sports. Wrestle. Laugh. Tell jokes. In person. Life is *pointed to the door* OUT THERE MAN.”
I am 100% certain, from his smile, that I got through to him.
So if you are wondering if your child should be allowed to have a Social Media account apply the above three part test and have them watch the Eric Thomas video. Start the conversation. It is your house, your rules, your children. PARENT STRONG!
Photo courtesy of Flicker.