The world of social media is ever changing. New platforms and social features are modifying and updating daily so it is important for parents to understand these changes and what impacts they may have on their child’s social media presence. It is therefore never too early to teach your child about good social media habits.
It has been suggested that ‘excessive’ use of digital devices and social media can be ‘harmful’ to children and teenagers. So how much social media use is too much and how can we monitor it? Technically, children under the age of 13 shouldn’t be creating social media profiles however in reality, this is not always the case. Instead of playing outdoors with friends after school and socialising together during lunchtimes, children can now be found perusing social media websites instead of interacting personally. However, not all social media interaction for children is negative. Managed correctly, social media platforms can be a good way to find out about clubs and events and share one another’s achievements.
So how can we ensure our children are getting the most out of social media and staying safe? Below are a few tips to help you in the process:
No underage social media profiles:
Don’t let your child create social media profiles under the age of 13 or until you think that they are ready after this age. Though children under this age are not permitted to use platforms such as Facebook, this is hard to enforce. So, as a parent, you must be vigilant and monitor your child’s use of digital devices.
Check privacy settings:
Manage the settings on your digital devices to ensure that privacy settings for the internet and social media usage are set to the strictest levels. Different browsers allow for different permissions to be set which not only protects the user but also protects the device as well. If your child is over 13 and you are aware that they are using social media platforms, then it is a good idea to sit with your child and discuss their privacy settings within the platform. This encourages your child to make good and informed choices.
Monitor your child’s internet usage:
Whilst there are many monitoring platforms that can be used to track your child’s internet activities, you may also want to consider limiting your child’s exposure to the internet. This could be achieved by capping usage times to certain parts of the day when you are available to supervise usage.
Create ground rules:
Together with your child set a list of ground rules. Creating the rules together allows both parties to share their views, knowledge, and opinions and ultimately set a foundation for trust and respect. These could include, times of use, platforms accessed and types of activity once on site.
Get to know your child’s online behaviours:
You don’t have to be a detective but be aware of what websites your child frequently visits and the people that they are associating with both on and offline. One of the ground rules that you may want to set could be that you can have access to their ‘friends’ list on social profiles.
Keep your computer in an open area:
Monitoring your child’s online activities is easier when the computer is in a central location such as a living room or kitchen and not in their bedroom. This also creates an open and honest atmosphere for online activity.
Encourage your child not to participate in online competitions and questionnaires:
Warn children of the dangers of participating in online activities such as giveaways and contest that children may be enticed into. These can often be a trick to find out personal information.
Choose the images that your child shares online together:
Ensure that the photographic content that your child posts are innocuous and have no identifiable features in the background or on clothing.
Set a good example:
Use social media in a responsible and conscious way yourself. Act as a role model for good online behaviour and be conscious of sensible usage times and durations.
Monitor mobile phone usage:
Mobile phones are a great way for you to communicate with your child and ensure that they are safe, however, it is not only you that has a means of contacting them through that same device. You may consider setting times for usage and leaving it in a communal space when at home.
What is an online reputation?
Teach your children about the impact of their online reputation. In years to come, colleges, universities and potential employers may check their social media profiles and make decisions on character based upon the content previously posted.
Have open and honest conversations with your child about the dangers that can be faced online. Encourage your child to ask questions and answer honestly so your child is aware, can make informed decisions and share their concerns.
There are many other monitoring gadgets that can help you in the process however communication, rules, managing permission settings and honesty are the best methods to ensure transparency when it comes to your child’s online presence. It’s not all negative, but consistent monitoring is required to ensure your child stays safe online.