Kids And Social Media
Stay Connected Safely
In today's modern world, screen time can encompass more than 6 hours a day for children. The benefits of using a T.V., computer, smartphone, or tablet often outweighs the negatives. There are educational videos, distance learning, connecting with friends and family, but there are also unsafe websites, predators, and of course, social media.
Social media for children is a great way for them to see photos and videos of their friends and family, communicate, and explore their own interests. Children who grow up using social media develop the skills to navigate and understand the platforms quicker than parents who are just learning the platforms. It is important to regulate your child's social media presence for safety and mental health.
Why Is Social Media Dangerous?
- Children can give out potentially dangerous information, such as their birthdays, home address, school address, friend group, etc.
- Children can reveal their interests to a public forum, which can then be used as a basis for communication with strangers.
- Children can post pictures or videos of themselves, siblings, family members, friends, pets, etc. so that the entire internet can see.
- Children's mental health can be affected by social media affirmations and validations, such as likes, shares, comments, etc. Even if they are not being cyberbullied, the lack of reactions to their posts can lower their self-esteem.
- Social media tracks and shares their data with other online giants.
What Social Media Platforms Are Made Just For Kids?
Spotlite: This photo sharing app is like Instagram but with a bunch of safety features built in:
- All accounts require a parent or carer to provide email authentication and approval.
- No friends can be added until a parent approves the account.
- Geo-targetting is not offered so images will not share your child’s location.
- Photos are monitored to make sure they’re not inappropriate and all the likes made on photos are anonymous.
PlayKids Talk: This instant messaging app teaches kids how to communicate online with friends and family without the ability to speak with strangers. The built in safety features give the parents total access and control:
- To set up the child’s account parents are required to go through age-verification.
- Parents can control all aspects of the child’s account such as contacts and profile.
- Parent have access to the account on their phones as well to keep an eye on what is being shared in real time
GoBubble: This social media platform has to be set up by a school, so it's worth speaking to your child's school district about setting up this app for their students. Similar to Facebook, this app allows children to collaborate on school projects, learn about new cultures, develop pen pals, teach children about safe social media use, and send parents messages via the site. Designed by former police sergeant and e-safety guru Henry Platten, this site has been awarded a PEGI 3 rating – the safest age rating available from the governing body (Pan European Gaming Information).
Gromsocial: This app is "created by kids for kids" and is a colorful, busy app similar to Facebook or Instagram. Kids can create avatars of themselves, but their real names do not appear on the site. They can share images, videos, text posts, etc. but there are several safety features built in:
- Applies a filter to remove any abusive language
- Requires email verification from parent to open an account
- Parents have access to child’s account to monitor activity like what friends are added and what is shared
What can parents do?
Many parents state that they don't want their children on social media, but don't want their kids to feel like they are missing out or being excluded. The best thing for you to do as a parent is to communicate often and openly about their online presence:
- Talk about your social media habits, experiences, and share your concerns with your children. A good topic to discuss is "what happens if you post that your entire family is going on vacation so the house will be empty for a week?" You can let your child try to figure out why this may be a problem and encourage their critical thinking when it comes to sharing information online.
- Talk about your kids' social media habits, experiences, and listen to them when they explain what they like and don't like about the various platforms they use. This fosters honest communication, but it also gives you an insight into why your child likes social media. If they only like the photo sharing platforms like Instagram, suggest that they and their friends find a safer alternative.
- Familiarize yourself with all social media platforms your child uses. This way, you know what they can access, what others can access, and how to enable parental controls, monitor communications, or find the hidden Direct Messages they might be receiving.
- Be attentive to your child's friends, classmates, and family. If you notice that they are online friends or followers of people that they don't know in real life, then you should discuss having a 'don't know them, don't friend them' policy.
- Discuss following the "WWGS?" (What Would Grandma Say?) rule. Teach kids not to share anything on social media that they wouldn't want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see. Let them know that you will be monitoring their social media account up front, and if they post anything that you disapprove of, then you will have to restrict their permissions or block them from using the platform at all.
- Show them your social media (after you make sure it is child-friendly). Let them see and emulate how you use your social media.
Most importantly, don't yell at or punish your child for social media. Instead, encourage open communication and explain to them your fears without becoming upset. Children will respond better and be more honest with you if you approach the situation calmly.
What experiences have your children or your family had using social media? What age did you start letting your children utilize social media platforms? Comment below and let us know.