How To: Introduce Young Children To Social Media

A s you might imagine, my husband and I carry our smart phones pretty much everywhere we go. Ever since they were babies, our children (now ages 7 and 9) have heard the sounds of Tweets being sent, texts being received, and photos being snapped and shared. Now that they are in elementary school, they are starting to see their friends with their own phones. (Where does the time go?)

The photo is a screen shot of one of my daughter's first blog posts, from last year. Pictured are me, my daughter, her brother, her Auntie Karen and her Uncle Phillip. I am creating a plan to introduce my kids to social media, and new technologies in general, and to encourage their use as personal development and achievement tools, and not merely to socialize. I've sketched out a basic plan, which I will share later. For now, I want to tell you that I have decided not to start with FaceBook as many parents do. I am starting with a blog, and here's why.

  1. The blogging process teaches essential life skills. Maintaining a blog is one of the best ways to teach children how to process thoughts, organize and record them in tangible form, and publish them for an audience. They will need these skills in their college application process, their job searches, and when they lead their own businesses someday. Open comments means they will see that other people may not always agree with them, so they will learn to be accepting of other people's ideas.

    Maintaining a blog teaches children (and people of all ages) useful leadership skills. They are in charge of the blog. They are responsible for how it influences others, positively or negatively.

    My children's blogs are introducing them to HTML, to different fonts, textures, color schemes. They are learning how to add photos, videos, hyperlinks and more to their blogs. They are seeing how they can use technology to advance their hopes and dreams, and share their unique personalities.

    A blog is a fantastic training ground for the future thoughts leaders of America.

  2. Blogs can be completely private. I started both of my children off on the platform because they are password protected and easy to use. I also think WordPress is the best option technology has to offer at this time. It should make for an easy transition to the self-hosted blog when the time comes. We have given their blog passwords to their teachers and a few close friends and family members so they can leave encouraging comments.

    I am enjoying the process of introducing my children to new technologies in a safe environment. This is good “practice” for what will come when we “graduate” them to a public blog.

  3. A blog is the best first step. I could have started them off with FaceBook. I don't think that would have been a good idea, however, because even though profiles can be “private” (whatever that means today), I don't think FaceBook really empowers people to use technology to their advantage.

    When it comes time for my kids to apply for jobs, sports teams, leadership organizations, and colleges, I want them to have a place where they can send people that is theirs alone. No unwanted tagged photos. No summaries of their childhood experiences told through someone else's eyes (including mine, I guess). And no friend lists that may contain some unsavory characters.

    I want my childrens's introduction to technology to empower them to shape a public persona that works to their advantage, and that teaches them to sell themselves as the best candidate for whatever opportunities they train their sights on. I want them to create a space that's branded as their own, and to relish that, so that when they are finally on FaceBook, they can enjoy it as a sort of “outpost.”

    I want to teach them that their blog should be their home base, and that their name should be its URL.

Once we have moved through the blogging phase together, I plan to introduce them to Twitter before I introduce them to FaceBook. I am still working through all of my reasons for that, and I'll share them when they are solidified in my head.

Of course there's no real right way to introduce young children to social media. I do think there are wrong ways to do it, and chief among them is to set them free to roam around the Web on their own. As parents, we should be actively involved in every step of this process, not only to protect our children from predators, but also to make sure that they use technology to further goals and to help other people do the same.

Question: How are you introducing your children to new technologies? What tips can you suggest?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.