There is no magic number to determine when a child is old enough for social media. It is up to you to decide when and how they take these first steps, and how best to support them as they begin their social media journey. Here are some tips for navigating social media usage with your young person.
Both the physical age of your child and their level of maturity and resilience can affect their ability to have positive experiences on social media.
What are the benefits and risks of using social media?
- anonymous communication
- content sharing
- live streaming
- location sharing
- messaging/online chat
- online relationships
- photo/video sharing
- voice chat
- video calling
Does your child know how to deal with negative online experiences?
- If you think your child would be very upset by a negative experience online, you may need to guide them closely if you allow them to establish a social media account.
- Look through online profiles and public feeds together, and talk about how some people behave differently online. Teach them how to filter abusive comments, block and report people.
Does your child understand the importance of protecting their personal information?
- Explaining to a child why privacy is important can be difficult. Start by describing what personal information is. Emphasise that it includes anything that can identify them, such as their mobile number, email address, photos, the name of their school, and any sporting clubs they belong to.
- Let them know that if they share personal information online, it could mean that others, including strangers could use it in ways they may not have thought about. Someone could even post bullying messages or inappropriate photos while pretending to be them.
Does your child understand online privacy?
Does your child understand how privacy settings for social media work?
- Show your child how to view the privacy settings for each social media service you use.
- Talk about the settings you have selected for your accounts and why you chose them.
Does your child understand what is safe to share online?
- Discuss the risks of ‘checking in’, tagging people in photos, sharing nude or sexually suggestive pictures, meeting online friends in person, making offensive comments and other behaviour that is considered unacceptable.
Does your child know how to report cyberbullying and other kinds of abusive content?
Although there are huge benefits to being connected through social media, your child may experience some form of online bullying or harassment. If this happens, it is important that they know how to manage and report this behaviour.
Together with your child, check the safety resources for individual social media services and look for information about how to block and report other users.
Click here for more information about how to report bullying or abusive content via the eSafety Commissioners website.
Is your child willing to let you establish clear rules and supervise their social media activity?
It is a good idea to supervise your child’s online activity, at least initially. Be clear on things like when and where online devices can be used and when they need to be switched off.
When your child first starts to use social media, talk with them about how to do this in a way that you are both comfortable with. Help them to understand why and how you would like to support them as they begin to explore. It may be tricky having this conversation, particularly with tweens and teens, but getting their agreement will keep the lines of communication open between you and ensure that they feel able to come to you for help if they encounter any problems. This is especially important so you can continue to support them.
Talk with your child about which social media services they would like to use. Come to an agreement you are both comfortable with about how they can use these services.
You might discuss the following:
- Which types of content they can post – it is a good idea to look at examples together and discuss the pros and cons of different posts.
- How often they should post.
- How often you are comfortable with them checking social media.
- Use Dolly’s Dream Family Tech Plan to establish agreed upon boundaries.
Another strategy is to become their friend or follow their social media accounts. This will enable you to observe what they are doing online and support them to make safer choices about what they share and how they share it. But be prepared to learn more than you might like about their friends and possibly about them.
Resist talking about the specifics of their online activity unless, for example, you are worried about particular things they have posted – and keep your comments offline. If you intervene too much or comment publicly, it can embarrass them and break their trust. This may prompt them to use a separate profile without your knowledge or restrict what you can see by sharing to restricted groups of friends or followers.
Finding the right balance about how much to supervise your child’s online activity will depend on your family’s culture and the individual needs of your child. Be prepared for your child to need more support from you at particular times, and to resist your support at other times. Eventually they will be ready to explore on their own – but keep the lines of communication open so they can come to you with any concerns they may have.
If you are concerned about a child or young person,
please seek help.
Speak to a trusted GP, school wellbeing staff, or a helpline such as:
Dolly’s Dream Support Line 0488 881 033
Parentline in your state or territory
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
headspace 1800 650 890
Lifeline 13 11 14
Original article appeared here – eSafety.gov