Inside: Keeping kids safe on social media is one of the realities of modern parenting. Here are ten tips that may help.
Generations X and Y have taken to Facebook and Instagram like ducks to water. Unfortunately, this gives us a false sense of security about our expertise with social media. You may have made a couple of TikToks with your kids, but do you really know what’s possible on the platform? What’s Tellonym? Are you aware of the number of young teens on Tinder? And how do we go about keeping kids safe on social media?
Even though it has lots of positives, social media is a minefield for kids. Regardless, a lot of parents are saying that managing it is just too hard and so they’re zoning out. It’s an odd attitude when in the real world we are more protective of our kids than ever.
At the moment tweens and teens are getting most of their information and help with social media from their peers. When really, this subject requires the levity of an adult perspective. Yes, yours…even if your name has never been associated with levity before!
What are kids using?
Most adolescents left Facebook as their most popular social media site a long ago. If they use it now it is for messaging and events. So what are they using? The cycle of site popularity is becoming shorter and shorter, so it is hard for researchers to be completely up to date. However, these are reported as among the currently most popular sites:
- TikTok (Obviously)
- Instagram and Instagram Story
- Telegram (For secret messaging)
- Tinder (Yep…the same one as adults!) and Yellow (Same thing but aimed at teens)
- Tellonym (On this app people can give you ‘honest’ anonymous feedback…lots of bullying and mean behaviour here)
Tips to keep in mind when navigating social media:
1. Parents need to be social media gurus. Don’t panic, it’s not hard. All of these sites are fairly self-explanatory, you just need to spend some time interacting with them. It doesn’t take long. Pay close attention to security and privacy settings.
2. Become shockproof. You are going to see and hear things you don’t like.
3. Don’t lecture kids about e-safety and don’t try to make them frightened. They will switch off. Education and honest discussion are the way forward.
4. Talk to them about porn. The average age of first exposure to porn is 11. Don’t kid yourself that your child is different. Children are becoming desensitised to the violence and stereotypes of porn. You need to have the difficult conversations about the difference between porn and sex in a respectful relationship. They aren’t going to get this vital information from their peers.
5. Talk to them about what they can do to protect themselves online. If you’re struggling, go to this site https://www.esafety.gov.au/
6. This one’s awkward…Sometimes kids lie about social media. Parents often find this hard to believe. For a start, if your child is under 13 and has an Instagram or Snapchat account, they’ve lied on the registration. You can’t open an account if your birthdate says you’re less than 13. It is also common to have one account that you let your parents see and one that is a secret.
7. Everything you’ve taught your children about respect needs to be transferred into online activity. Kids don’t always make that connection. Make it for them. (This social media contract may help with this discussion.)
8. Help your kids manage their social media time by introducing them to some of the apps available that block access to sites you choose for your choice of time. I like Self Control. Once set it will deny access to the social media you choose even if you delete the app or restart your device. It’s great for homework time. It’s pretty useful for adults trying to focus too!
9. Be aware that even young tweens are engaging in the early stages of sexting. It has become that normalised as a way of flirting and may start very innocently but can escalate quickly. Talk to kids opening about this behaviour. They have very little understanding of how those images may be used and shared.
10. Don’t assume that school will ‘take care of it’. They do the best they can with cybersafety programs and ongoing education. However, your child is at school 35 hours a week, the remaining 133 hours are on your watch. The messages are more powerful coming from you anyway. Kids really do understand your emotional investment in their wellbeing, even if that’s not always obvious.
It would be easy at this point to just say, “Simple… forbid it all and don’t let them have social media or even a phone.” However, that’s naive. Kids will find a way. Australian organisation Safe on Social tells us, “The amount of kids who share accounts with friends because “they are not allowed to use it” would blow your mind. Please be open to continuous education in this space.” Listen to the experts when they visit your child’s school and follow them online.
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