Inside: Keeping kids safe on social media is one of the realities of modern parenting. Here are ten tips that may help.
Generation X has taken to Facebook like ducks to water. Unfortunately, this gives us a false sense of security about our expertise with social media. You may be all over Facebook, but do you know how to use SnapChat? What’s Tellonym? Music.ly is a live streaming app. Are you aware of its risks? 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. It’s an odd attitude when in the real world we are more protective of our kids than ever.
At the moment 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!
The truth is, adolescents left Facebook and Twitter as their most popular social media sites long ago. 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, when I asked girls at school today, they listed these as among the currently most popular sites:
- Instagram Story
- Tellonym (On this app people can give you ‘honest’ anonymous feedback…lots of bullying and mean behaviour here)
Here are some helpful 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 loving 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. 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.)
7. 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!
8. Teach kids some basics about the law. It is illegal to share images of young people naked or scantily clad. Sexting comes under this law, even if a minor is sending a photo of themselves. It comes under the Distribution of Child Pornography laws. Creating the image and keeping it on your phone/computer also come under pornography laws in Australia.
9. 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, Snapchat or Facebook 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.
10. Don’t assume that school will ‘take care of it’. They do the best they can with cyber safety programs and ongoing education. 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.
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Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-five years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single-sex and co-ed. Currently, she lives in Western Australia and works as a freelance writer and speaker.