Virtual Village: Creating a Family Social Media Policy

Every large corporation has probably devoted time and effort in recent years to draft its social media policy.

This policy outlines the types of information the corporation puts forward on social media, who posts that information, who approves what gets posted, et cetera, in an effort to ensure that the corporation’s best face is put forward to the world and to ensure its legal protection.

While this is important for large companies, we sometimes forget that having a family social media policy is often a good plan to ensure your family’s protection, particularly families with younger children.

Needless to say, this will not be as formal a document, but should outline some general rules for what family members should and should not be posting on their social media pages.

Unfortunately, the online world can be a rough place; however, it does not mean your family should avoid it either.

Here are a few items you might want to consider including in such a policy:

1. Children under 18 should never post their full names.

2. Children should only have friends that they or you know personally. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to be “friended” by strangers.

3. Parents should approve all social media sites that children join before they are allowed to sign up. Many sites have a minimum age for enrollment—parents should check these. Also, you should have an account with every social media site where your children have an account.

4. Children should not include pictures of themselves on social media sites. Use an avatar or scenery picture instead.

5. Parents should ensure their children’s security and privacy settings are properly configured before they use their accounts, and that postings are limited to friends only.

6. Have a list of topics your family members are not allowed to post about. Comments should be kept positive in nature to ensure that your family members are not bullying others online or inadvertently encouraging others to do so.

As a practical rule, children should be prohibited from posting anything about their school teachers, positive or negative. (You may also want to consider anything you, as a parent, post about your job, as well.)

7. Approve all photos that get posted online.

8. Ensure that you, as a parent, are the first friend on your children’s accounts. However, for the sake of your children, never post to your child’s account.

9. Check your children’s accounts frequently. While you may be listed as a friend on your child’s Facebookaccount, this is no guarantee you will see everything they post, so make sure you check their timeline page on a regular basis.

10. Keep the computer in a central location in the house so you can monitor its use. Time spent on social media sites will not be spent on homework, studying, or other pursuits.

11. Don’t be afraid to say “No.”

Now, don’t forget to include the rules that apply to you as well. If the rules for everyone are included, your children may be more likely to adhere to the policy without complaint… OK, with fewer complaints.

One last rule to consider is that, like all corporate policies, the rules should be written down and reviewed periodically to meet any new situations that arise.

Having a policy in place at the start should go a long way to limit conflict and keep your family’s social media use safe.

Doug Rutherford teaches computer networking and security for Yukon College and three post-secondary educational institutions in British Columbia.

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