Meghann Foster and Nick Westergaard, parents and University of Iowa social media experts, share tips to help families decide whether their children are ready for online accounts.
From Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat and TikTok, the social media landscape is
changing rapidly. While it can be hard to keep up with the latest apps, it's even more
difficult when your kids are pressuring you to let them join.
PHOTOS COURTESY NICK WESTERGAARD
Meghann Foster and Nick Westergaard
"As parents we hear this all the time," says Meghann Foster (00BA), a lecturer at the UI School
of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she teaches social media marketing. Foster is also a
content strategist at Brand Driven Digital.
Her business partner and husband, Nick Westergaard (01BA), teaches communication and
social media marketing at the Henry B. Tippie College of Business. Together the couple have five
kids. "It's a conversation you have to have," adds Westergaard, the author of Get Scrappy: Smarter
Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. "If not, you and your kids are likely to run into
trouble down the road."
Here are five tips from Foster and
Westergaard to help you and your family
make appropriate decisions on your kids'
social media use:
- First, do your homework. Do you know
what TikTok is? What about Snapchat? Do
you know the difference between them? You
may not be interested personally, but you
should have at least a general idea on how
these networks work to know what's best for
your kids and at what age.
- Know the rules. Different social networks
have different rules for opening accounts.
While the minimum age to open an account
on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,
TikTok, and Snapchat is 13, many kids join
with or without their parents' permission. Our
take? These restrictions are there for a reason.
Plus, teaching kids to ignore the rules isn't a
great precedent to set.
- Start with a conversation. To keep your
kids from joining social media without your
knowledge, have a conversation about it first.
Listen for what it is they're trying to do.
Often, it's as simple as connecting with their
friends. If you have concerns, share them, but
don't go out of your way to scare them.
- Don't cave to peer pressure. "But all of
my friends are on it!" We hear this a lot from
kids about social media. They shouldn't cave
to peer pressure, and neither should you. If it's
a good fit, great—let them use it. If not, then
use this as an opportunity to educate them
about online safety.
- Set up accounts and monitor together. If a social network makes sense, set up your
child's profile together. This provides you
with an opportunity to learn about the site if
you're unfamiliar. It also allows you to teach
important concepts such as privacy settings
and blocking and reporting inappropriate
content. Start with social training wheels
like keeping your child's account private on
networks like Instagram and approving new
followers together. And, once again, keep
those lines of communication open. In other