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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

3 Ways For Kids To ACE Social Media

By Marjie Knudsen

In the movie Avatar, when the people feel "really" connected, they say, "I see you." Social Media offers the possibility of creating similar connections by helping us to see one another more clearly.

Normally, we don't get to know someone well enough to understand him or her, but we now have another way to see. We have a wider window to our families and friends. As Tara Parker-Pope recently reported, research suggested that a person's Facebook profile closely fits their personality.

We can learn more about our relatives and friends across the country, see pictures of their kids, and share in the joys of their vacations. We can find out about details of their lives and the interests that we would otherwise miss out on.

We can share things with friends and acquaintances online and get feedback in a manner that is less confrontational. We feel safer to risk getting to know one another on a deeper level, which may be a key to happiness according to scientist Todd Kashdan.

There is the serious problem of bullying and predators. We have always had and always will have predators, but now we have a way to find them. Bullying has always been a problem, although with social media it has finally been brought into the spotlight and people are coming up with solutions. The website Bullybust gives 10 ways to be an upstander and many other anti-bullying tips. Another website, Cruel's Not Cool, helps kids to understand why bullying happens.

Safety measures will constantly need to be improved, but social media is not going away. We might begin to accept the importance of Social Media in our children's lives. We might consider educating our kids before they gain access to the cyberworld. They are savvy in many ways, yet there are things we need to convey and reinforce. For example, we can remind them to ACE it. They need to keep in mind these three points:

  • Be accountable for the way they behave. This means that they need to take care with what they say and post, online and off.  In time, school admissions and job prospects may view them on Facebook and other sites.
  • Be considerate in what they post. Although we are trading our privacy for checks and balances, there are multi-generations on Facebook now. Aunts and uncles, cousins, and little brothers and sisters are on Facebook, too.
  • Be engaged in a smart way. If they or someone they know are being bullied, they need to know what action to take. Even though bullying can be traced back to bullies who can no longer take back their words or pictures, it still happens. Yet, there are options. For example, a nationwide program in South Korea is combating cyberbullying by encouraging students to flood "online forums with positive comments."

Teens today have this increased communication power. They don't have the maturity to understand the implications and responsibilities that all this entails. Like anything new in their lives, we need to teach them about it and give them guidelines. As adults, we need to learn and understand guidelines also. It's a different mode of communication. The stakes are high because the exposure is huge. There are amazing possibilities, too.  Perhaps our children will end up saving the world.

I feel we are becoming a better world, a more-connected world. We are starting to see each other now.

Marjie Knudsen is a writer, parent and child advocate. Follow Marjie on Twitter @MarjieKnudsen 

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