During the primary school years, there is a tendency to want to bury your head in the sand when it comes to the issues and challenges of mobile phone use and social media. If you have children under 10, you may feel you don’t need to pay attention to this yet. However, by Years 5 and 6 many of your children’s peers will start to actively use apps like Snapchat and Instagram and you need to start to understand how to help your child navigate the online world.
The legal age for children to use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Musical.ly and Snapchat is 13. But, according to a report by the Children’s Commissioner, around 75% of 10 to 12 year olds have a social media account. The study makes sobering reading stating that children face a ‘cliff edge’ when it comes to using social media when they go to secondary school.
Getting comments and likes on their posts becomes a priority, especially when their whole class are now using mobile devices and have social media accounts. They become more concerned about how they look and feel anxious about staying connected at all times. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) becomes much more prevalent.
Class WhatsApp groups and the like mean that whilst your child has their phone they are connected to their peers 24/7. This is the equivalent of having the “noise” of the playground with them at all times. It makes it impossible for children to leave behind the social interactions of the day, including any negative ones, and switch off emotionally. It means your child is at risk of being negatively impacted by any hurtful throwaway remarks or comments made by their peers which may not even have been intended to be hurtful. Social posts without accompanying tone, facial expression and gesture are more likely to be interpreted negatively or the meaning questioned than words delivered face to face. In short, you need to set limits on social interaction if your child is going to remain sane and grounded.
Here are some things to consider before your child becomes active on social:
- Explore the privacy settings on all the apps your children will use and explain how they work. Make sure their accounts aren’t public and are only available to their friends.
- Explain they should only friend or follow people they know on all their social media accounts.
- Stress that it is crucial for them to tell you if someone they don’t know is trying to contact them. Explain not everyone is who they say they are online.
- Remind them they can block people they don’t know or users who are giving them unwanted attention (including their peers).
- There are many things your children should not see on the internet. Ensure your children feel comfortable talking about what they have seen online or things that have been sent to them. Conversations need to be open and frank because sexual and violent content can only ever be a few clicks away.
- Follow them or add them as a friend on your social accounts, so you can see what they are doing. Many parents make this a condition before allowing their child to have an app, especially if they are younger.
- If you are not on the social platform, explain that you will want access to their account to see what they are doing (actually follow through on this). Some people may feel this is an intrusion on their privacy, but my personal view is that young teenagers need some supervision.
- Tell them not to share private information about themselves, like where they go to school or their address.
- Remind them not to post, snap or chat about something that they don’t want to be shared or seen by a wider audience. Remind them pictures can be captured by screenshot and shared with people they don’t know.
- Tell them that bullying should not be tolerated in real life or cyberspace. If they are being bullied or see someone being bullied, tell them to tell a trusted adult.
- Limit how long they can be online. Put the Wi-Fi on a timer or set a daily limit of time for how long they can be on their device.
As parents, we need to lead by example, so limit the time you spend on social platforms when you are with your child. Accept that your child is bound to make some mistakes on social media. The key is to have an open dialogue with them about it so they can ask for advice if things go wrong and learn how to create healthy boundaries around their online activities.
Claire Winter (clairewinter.info) has been a content creator, journalist, and copywriter for twenty years. Claire is passionate about helping business owners get rid of their writing blocks with 1:1 raining or online courses. She currently writes for all 38 Families magazines that cover the UK, which reach 4 million parents a year. Her latest writing course Selling with Stories – Creating Content that Converts launches on January 7. clairewinter.info/sellingwithstories