Social Media Ethics


It’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing online, but prying too much can alienate them and damage the trust you’ve build together. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they’re safe.

Here are some helpful hints to share with connected kids:

  • Be nice. Mean behavior is just as unacceptable in the virtual world as it is in the real world. Make it clear that you expect your kids to treat others with respect and courtesy, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages about others. Ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others may post.
  • Think twice before hitting “enter”. Remind teens that what they post can be used against them. For example, letting the world know that you’re off on vacation or posting your home address gives would-be robbers a chance to strike. Teens also should avoid posting specific locations of parties or events, as well as phone numbers.
  • Follow the “WWGS? (What Would Grandma Say?) Rule. Teach kids that “once it’s out there, you can’t get it back”. They shouldn’t share anything on social media that they wouldn’t want their teachers, college admission officers, future bosses – and yes, grandma – to see.
  • Use privacy settings. Privacy settings are important, and to highlight their importance, go through the settings together to make sure your kids understand each one. Also, explain that passwords are there to protect them against things like identity theft and should never be share with anyone (even boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend).
  • Don’t “friend” strangers. “If you don’t know them, don’t friend them”. This is a plain, simple – and safe – rule of thumb.

Make it Official

So, how can you drive these messages home? One way is to make a “social media agreement” with your kids – a real contract they sign. In it, they can agree to protect their own privacy, consider their reputation, and not give out personal information. Furthermore, they promise to never use technology to hurt anyone else (through bullying or gossip).

In turn, parents agree to respect teens’ privacy while making an effort to be part of the social media world (this means you can “friend” and observe them, but don’t post embarrassing comments or rants about messy rooms). Parents also can help keep kids grounded in the real world by putting limits on media use. Keep computers in public areas in the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set some rules on the use of technology (such as no cellphones at the dinner table).

Don’t forget: setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your kids use social media safely.

(Excerpt from article on