Parent Social Media Guide for Students Over 13

Family members today have a new job: helping children act safely and responsibly when they are using social media, whether for fun or for learning. This guide is designed to help you do that. We worked with our teachers, librarians, and students, and partnered with Common Sense Media to create guidelines for students 13 and older for the best use of social media. These guidelines focus on four areas: digital image, responsible posting, thinking about your actions online, and cyberbullying.

Create Your Digital Image

To control their own online images, young people must think about how they want the world to identify them. This includes matching their personal ideals with their online images, being mindful of their own words, and knowing that families can be helpful partners. The following activities help you work with your child to create a responsible and positive digital footprint.

Family Activities

Throughout this guide we will share activities you can do with students followed by information sharing why such activities are helpful.

Headline Exercise

If your child was the subject of a newspaper article, what would she want the headline to read? Write the headline. Talk about what the headlines of friends, families and famous people might be.

You can also watch the "One Sentence Project" video to hear how other students have answered this question.

Review the types of photos and posts you and your child have in your current online spaces. Do they match the headline you’d both like to see? If not, how might future posts address that?

Why it Helps

This activity gets the digital image conversation started. It helps the child see how her image affects how others see her.

Imagining Your Audience

Remind your child that many people are possible audience members for their digital image. What would he like his teacher to see? How about the school he hopes to go to? An employer? What about a potential boyfriend/girlfriend? Talk about what he can do to make sure he is sharing what will help develop the desired reputation.

Why it Helps

Gets the child thinking about how to take ownership of his digital image.

Review your Own Profile

You can take steps to improve your digital image and/or help your child with hers.

Some places to start are simply creating profiles in places like Google and About.Me. Look at other students’ profiles and discuss what you like and don’t like. Consider if there is anything that your child may want to delete or untag to more correctly reflect the image she wants to convey.

Why it Helps

It provides an opportunity for family members to work together to control their digital images.

Find Out More

“Common Sense on Privacy and Digital Footprints.” “Common Sense on Privacy and Digital Footprints.” Family Tip Sheet. Common Sense Media, 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.. Common Sense Media, 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.

Post Responsibly

You play a key role in ensuring your child is posting responsibly. The DOE Internet Acceptable Use and Safety Policy tells parents that they are responsible for teaching their particular family values to their children. You can help your child post in ways that best show the values of your family:

Family Activity

Set Up an Account Together

Once your child is old enough to create an account (typically, 13), you should set up social media accounts and review the privacy settings together. Make sure your child is only having online friendships and conversations with people you approve of.

Why it Helps

This will enable you to guide and support your child as they set up account and privacy settings. It will show your child that you have a real interest in her success and safety online.

Use Current Events

Events in the news and with friends and family offer great ways to talk about responsible posting. When stories happen, talk with your child about how they would respond to it. Don’t focus only on what not to do. It’s also important to talk about ways people use social media for good.

Why it Helps

This keeps the conversation current and real. It provides a quick answer to the question, “Why do we need to know this?”

Find Out More

Kids and Socializing Online.” Kids and Socializing Online.” Consumer Information: Privacy & Identity. Federal Trade Commission. September 2011. Web. 2 Jan 2018 Federal Trade Commission. September 2011. Web. 2 Jan 2018.

Consider the Consequences

It’s important for students to think about the effects of their online actions and to be careful about whom they call friends, followers, etc. Students don’t always know that what they do outside of school can have effects at school, and this is very true online.

Family Activity

Don’t Post Private Personal Information

Explain to your child why it’s unsafe to post your address, birth date, or other personal information and what identity theft means. Use real examples if you can find them.

Why it Helps

It creates clear ground rules and stresses the importance of holding back information.

Keep Information Private

Talk to your child about not sharing passwords with friends and make sure you both know how to stop computers you share with others from automatically saving passwords. (For example, always log off when you have finished using a site – don’t just close the browser.) Let your child know that we can each be held responsible for another person’s actions when that person uses our online accounts to post info or buy something.

Why it Helps

It opens the conversation about how important it is to protect oneself, in both the physical and digital worlds.

Parental Notification

Schools should notify parents each year about school or classroom-based social media activities. If you haven’t heard anything, talk to your child’s teacher, and your child. Find out about what kinds of social media activity, if any, is part of his classroom work. Talk about the school’s use of social media with your child the same way you would talk about other school work.

Why it Helps

Keeps you aware of what’s happening in your child’s school, so you can take actions to help and guide his social media use.

Be Aware of Your Child’s Behavior Online

You may want to “friend” or “follow” your child. Some families keep a copy of their child’s online usernames and passwords; others have a place where all family passwords are kept in case of emergency. Set rules for what behavior is allowed online for your family and talk about the Student Social Media Guidelines at home. You may also want to buy filtering software or set up a program to track computer and cell phone use.

Why it Helps

It helps you stay aware of what’s taking place online. It also helps children know their parents are there to help them in safe and responsible use of social media.

Find Out More

“Avoid Scams 101.” “Avoid Scams 101.” The Federal Trade Commission. n.d. Web. 2 Jan 2018.. The Federal Trade Commission. n.d. Web. 2 Jan 2018.

Take Threats of Cyberbullying Seriously

Cyberbullying is the use of electronic technologies to hurt or harass others. Examples include creating or forwarding offensive text messages or emails, posts that are not true and create rumors, and embarrassing photos. The guidelines give students ideas about what to do when someone they know is being targeted, or if they are being targeted themselves.

Family Activity

Know Your Child’s Friends at School

Learn the names of your child’s friends and what kinds of activities they do together. If you suspect your child is cyberbullying or is the victim of cyberbullying, you may want to speak to your school’s guidance counselor, Respect for All liaison, or another member of the school staff whom you trust.

Why it Helps

It helps families learn which personalities and situations that may become problems.

Stay Aware of Behavior at Home

Pay attention if your child’s behavior suddenly changes. Some signs of cyberbullying (both being bullied, as well as bullying) are: withdrawal from daily activities, getting upset when online or texting, quickly closing out of applications when an adult walks by, or avoiding discussions about what she is doing.

Why it Helps

It helps family members spot cyberbullying and help before it escalates.

Know What to Do If Your Child Is the Bully

If you suspect your child is bullying someone, it’s important to know about the situation. Try to find out the reasons and come up with a plan to deal with and correct the behavior with your child. Your child’s school Respect for All liaison or guidance counselor can help you with this.

Why it Helps

Families don’t need to go through these situations alone. The DOE has professionals and resources to support you.

Start the Dialogue

Family media agreements will help you talk about how to be safe online. You can find forms for these agreements on Commonsense Media.

Why it Helps

By setting clear rules and creating guidelines, you make future conversations on the subject much easier.

Encourage Your Child to Speak Up

When your child sees that someone he knows is not being treated right, encourage him to support the victim. They can do that by privately telling the victim that he is sorry for what she is going through or by speaking up publicly. Try to find real examples of this from your life or in the media and discuss with your child the different ways he might respond.

Why it Helps

It shows that there are other ways to fix a problem other than bullying.

Standing up against abuse can give your child a good feeling about himself and consideration for those around him.

Point Out Positive Contributions from Other Young People

Encourage your child to stay positive in online. Point out examples of others who participate this way, like the students who are part of Student Voice. Talk with your child about the different ways she can help keep things positive.

Why it Helps

Helps you show your child how social media can be used positively.

Find Out More

Review the educator materials under Helpful Links on the nycschools/tech section of the Employee InfoHub. 

Cyberbullying.” Cyberbullying.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.. n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.

“Family Tip Sheet: Common Sense on Cyberbullying.” Family Tip Sheet: Common Sense on Cyberbullying.” Digital Literacy and Citizenship in a Connected Culture. Common Sense Media, n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018. Common Sense Media, n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.

Hinduja, Sameer, Ph.D., and Justin W. “Cyberbullying Warning Signs: Red flags that your child is involved in cyberbullying.” Hinduja, Sameer, Ph.D., and Justin W. “Cyberbullying Warning Signs: Red flags that your child is involved in cyberbullying.” Cyberbullying Research Center. 2009. Web. 2 Jan. 2018. 2009. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.

Tip Sheet: Technology and Youth: Protecting Your Child from Electronic Aggression.” Tip Sheet: Technology and Youth: Protecting Your Child from Electronic Aggression.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.. n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2018.