As a Stepdad, you knew it was just a matter of time before the kids came up and asked you to help create a Facebook page. Although it might seem like just yesterday that your kiddos were itty bitty flower girls and ring bearers at your wedding, they are definitely getting older and are understandably clamoring to dip their toes into the pool of social media.
After talking with your wife, if the two of you agree that it’s okay for your kids to open Facebook accounts, there are definitely some safety precautions that you will want to keep in mind. For example, before your child posts his or her first selfie on Instagram, you might want to think about doing the following:
1) Join the Same Sites
In order to keep tabs on your child on social media sites, learn how to create your own profile and become your kid’s friend on the site. (Here’s a beginner resource if you’re not on the social media platforms yet.) If your child seems horrified that you will be connected in this way, reassure him or her that you are not out to post embarrassing comments or photos of them (you know, like that one of him performing a tap dance at the school talent show). Make it a rule that joining social media sites means you might be joining them too, and that you’ll be checking the pages pretty frequently to make sure everything is going okay.
2) Join LifeLock
Social media websites can be a great place for hackers to learn a lot of personal information about people, which they can use later on to steal your identity. As Village Living Magazine notes, kids can be notorious for spilling all sorts of names and details on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — things like the name of their school, their dog’s name, and the names of their best pals. What these names share in common is that they are typically used by banks and other financial institutions as answers to security prompts — “What is your pet’s name?” may help you and your children access their college savings accounts online, but now a hacker knows the answer too. In order to help keep your stepchild’s identity safe and secure, you should consider signing them up for a subscription to LifeLock; this way, if they unwittingly reveal too much personal information, LifeLock will alert you to any unauthorized attempts to access their accounts.
Before you give your kids the keys to the internet, have a serious talk with them about Internet safety. As Parent Map notes, parents are the best resource when it comes to keeping their kiddos safe on the Internet. Even though your stepkids may squawk a bit, let them know that if they are going to open accounts on Facebook and Instagram, they need to make sure the page has all of the privacy settings clicked and activated. Take them on a tour of some of your friends’ Facebook pages and show them how easy it is to see photos of people they don’t even know. Once you have set the ground rules, write up a social media contract and have everyone sign it — including you and your wife. There are many examples online, including this one. Adjust it to your needs. Just as you are expecting your stepkids to act in a safe and responsible way on social media sites, the contract will also reinforce your promise to them that you are there to help them, and if they ever run into a situation that makes them uncomfortable, that they can come to you immediately for assistance.
This is a great opportunity to get some bonding time in. Have fun with it. There’s plenty to be concerned with on the internet, but there’s some great stuff out there too. Show them some funny videos of kittens or funny pictures. Laugh with them and enjoy this moment. It may just be another Thursday night to you but to them it may be a big moment they’ll remember. Once their Facebook account is set up show them how easy it is to “friend” someone. Just have them send you and mom a friend request. BAM! You’ve had a fun time and now you’ve got your eyes on their internet activity.