You Don’t Have to be Terrified of The Internet as a Parent (We Promise)

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Raise your hand if you’ve scrolled through parenting groups on Facebook to ask for advice on breastfeeding or how to get your kids to eat more vegetables. Or to get confirmation that you’re not the only one who hides in the bathroom so you can knock out a few levels of a certain favorite digital candy game uninterrupted.

The internet has been a lifeline for many parents and caregivers. It’s how we connect with our community, and it helps with social isolation when we’re not able to meet up in person. It lets us socialize in a way that works for both introverts and extroverts, and it’s as easy as pulling our phone out of our pocket.

And yet, as amazing as social media and messaging apps are, we can’t help but worry about our kids being active on the internet. We grew up without social media (or internet, for you Gen X’ers), so navigating the ever-changing space for our kids can feel like the Wild West. Still, just as you’ve found your online friendships as valuable as your in-person ones, your children likely will, too.

Teaching your kids to be good digital citizens doesn’t have to be scary. We’ve pulled together some tips that will help you and your kids navigate safely online as well as tips for what to do when they don’t feel safe. And we have the 411 on how tools like Messenger Kids offer the training wheels to start your kids’ digital journey — parent-supervised, of course.

Kindness & Respect Are Just As Important Online

In order to help kids connect with friends and family in their parent-supervised app, the Messenger Kids Pledge asks their users to Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Have Fun. These aren’t just guidelines for a particular app, but for the internet (and life) as a whole.

Interacting with others through a screen feels different than in person, especially for younger kids. When you’re looking at avatars, memes, and animated images, it’s easy to forget there’s an actual person on the other side of that screen.

Kindness means we should communicate with others — whether it’s people your kids already know or new friends — the way we want to be spoken to. Some kids love chatting online via video, but the majority of them will interact via text. Even with the use of emojis and gifs, it isn’t always easy to communicate tone online. This can easily lead to misunderstandings. Remind your kids to ask if they’re unsure of the tone of a message.

Discuss what kindness means to your family and how your kids can model making others feel welcome and comfortable when interacting with others online.

Respect others’ time by being patient if a friend or family member doesn’t respond right away. Their friend may be eating dinner or doing homework. Talk to your kids about what’s an appropriate time to wait before messaging their friend again.

What To Do When Kids Feel Unsafe

While it’s not an easy conversation to have, it’s crucial to talk to your kids on how to feel safe when interacting with others online. Kids are smart and will understand your desire for caution. Start where they’re at and allow them to ask questions about what’s safer and not safe online.

Here are some guidelines you can adapt for your family:

  • Don’t share personal information such as birthdate, address, phone numbers with people who are not on your approved list
  • Talk to a parent or guardian if someone says something to make you feel uncomfortable or if someone is mean
  • Let a parent know if you witness online bullying

Feel free to add other guidelines that fit your family’s values, and go over them periodically.

Messenger Kids Connects Friends in a Safer Environment

Now that we’ve dispelled some of your fears, try out Messenger Kids with your family. They’ve created a messaging app that gives parents control and visibility into your children’s experience. Through the parent dashboard, you can manage their contact lists as well as their screen time on the app.

By using the app, kids pledge to Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Have Fun. Messenger Kids just launched Pledge Planets, an interactive, in-app activity that helps reinforce the four tenets of the pledge by letting kids practice good digital citizenship.

Of course, fun is still an essential ingredient — all stickers, GIFs, and filters are appropriate for kids. Now that you’ve started your family group chat, who can send the best GIFs?

Messenger Kids is the video, voice, and messaging app designed for kids to connect with family and friends. Learn more by exploring

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