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How Do I Keep My Child Safe on Social Media?
It goes without saying that today’s kids are more social media savvy than ever before. A whopping 81% of teens online use social media and they’re sharing more information about themselves via social media than ever before.
While growing up online has its rewards, it also poses significant risks. Every day we are hearing stories of child cyberbullying, posting inappropriate photos, negative online comments, and kids giving into peer pressure. A child’s misuse of a social network can become a very serious dilemma and one that can’t haunt them throughout their future.
So, how can you keep your child safe? Below I’ve listed a few basic tips that I believe can help.
Set an age limit for your children
60% of all children by the age of 10 have used an online social network.
According to a study conducted by Opinium, that statistic is absolutely true. My wife and I have a 10 year old son, and although we can’t imagine creating a social media account for him at this age, obviously we’re in the minority.
52% of 8-16 year-olds admit to ignoring Facebook’s official age limit of 13 when they created their account?
Have you heard of WhatsApp, BBM, Snapchat or Ask.fm?
Well, the odds are your kids have heard of them, since these are some of the next most popular social networks for kids in this age demographic. WhatsApp (40%), BBM (24%), SnapChat (11%) and Ask.fm (8%).
While nearly 6 out of 10 children are using social media by the age of 10, amazingly 68% of parents don’t feel ‘very confident’ about being capable of helping their children remain safe online.
The survey also found the following interesting information about social media and children ages 11-13.
Social Media and Children – Things to Consider
For those of you who are like my wife and don’t allow your children to use social media, it’s a good idea to let them know at what age they can begin using social media. If your child thinks they will never be able to open a social media account, then they will be more likely to create their own secret profile.
When deciding what age to let your kids use social media, keep in mind that most social networks require users to be 13 years old or older to create an account.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents companies from collecting personal information about children under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission.
I know for many parents, monitoring their child’s social media presence is not only stressful, but also very challenging. The study found that while 63% of all parents check their child’s internet activity on a weekly basis, 21% are not confident they could install parental controls, and 46% admit not being confident or aware of their child’s school’s internet policy.
Educate yourself about social media and monitor their activity
In today’s rapidly changing digital world, it is very important for parents to do a little research about the various social networks their children are using. Getting more familiar with the latest social networks will give you a better understanding of how each platform works. I even recommend creating your own profile on these sites to experience the networks firsthand. Each network is a little different and each one has its own unique risks.
Below is a current list of the most popular social networks that kids are using today.
It’s also critical to monitor your child’s online activity 24/7. The best way to prevent poor behavior is for them to know you are present.
It wasn’t long ago that I would encourage parents not to place the computer that the child uses in their bedroom. Although, this is still a good rule, generally kids today are not using social media on desktop or laptop computers. They are accessing their social accounts via mobile devices such tablets and smart phones. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that parents waited until high school before getting their kids a smart phone. The numbers below reflect a huge change over the past few years.
Children and Cell phones
- On average, children are 12.1 when they receive their first mobile device.
- 56% of children, age 8 to 12, have a cell phone.
- 60% of families who have provided a cell phone to their child did so between the ages of 10 and 11.
- 20% provided their 8 to 9 year olds with a cell phone.
- Of children 8 years of age and younger 2% have their own cell phone.
- 71% of families with young children under 8 years old have a smart phone.
- Among children 8 years of age and younger, 21% use smart phones.
Children and Tablets:
- 23% of teenagers, ages 12 to 17, have a tablet computer compared to 25% of adults.
- Of children 8 years of age and younger, 6% have their own tablet.
- 42% of families with young children under 8 years old have a tablet.
- Among children 8 years of age and younger, 26% use tablets.
- 46% of families have at least one tablet.
- 70% of children under 12 years old, living in a tablet-owning household, have used the tablet device.
- 57% of children under 12 years old, who have access at home to a wireless tablet device, have used an educational application.
- 77% of children under 12 years old in tablet-owning households download games to play.
- 55% of parents with a tablet use it to entertain their children under 12 years old while traveling.
- 41% used a tablet to entertain their children at a restaurant.
- 43% of children under 12 years old with access to a tablet at home use it to watch movies and television shows.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Don’t assume that your kids understand the dangers and consequences of social media. Truth is most kids don’t fully comprehend the negative risks associated with using social media. Often they underestimate how simple it is for others to gain access to their personal information and get caught up into the social media trap forgetting that others are potentially viewing their online activity.
Parents need make sure that their children have developed a heightened awareness about how social media can have a significant impact on their future.
Discuss the potential dangers and provide real-life stories about kids being cyber bullied. Keep the lines of communication open so that your children are comfortable asking questions and requesting help when pressed. A child that has a good grip of the potential pitfalls with social media will be much more cautious to post pictures or even sharing their whereabouts online.
Establish Clear Rules and Regularly Check their Privacy Settings
Institute a clear set of rules or guidelines is an excellent approach to ensure that your children are developing positive social media habits. An example would be to establish a time limit for how long your children are allowed to be using social media during the week. One practice that seems to work well is spending time together practicing and learning about social media safety. Be sure to check your children’s privacy settings on all of their social media networks regularly. One constant with social media is change. Social networks make frequent updates, which can affect your child’s privacy settings. So, it’s important to regularly check their privacy settings ensuring it’s as safe as possible.
One pitfall that many parents seem to make is that they are too rigid. While I understand you want what’s best for them, setting rules that are too stringent will only drive them away. Ultimately, your goal should be to find a happy medium, empowering your children to make good decisions without having to hide from you.
The Positives of Children Using Social Media
The truth is that media outlets are inclined to focus on the negatives of social media, however teens are also using social media for social good and to help improve self-confidence. According to a report by the nonprofit child advocacy group Common Sense Media which surveyed more than a thousand 13-17 year-olds about their digital lives…
- 20% of teens said social media makes them feel more confident, compared to only 4% who said it makes them feel less confident.
- 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing versus only 5% who said it made them feel less outgoing.
- 29% said it made them feel less shy versus only 3% who said it made them feel more introverted.
- 52% of teens said social media has improved their relationships versus just 4% who said it has negatively affected those relationships.
“On the whole, teens said that they feel that social media has a more positive than negative impact on their social and emotional lives,” said Shira Lee Katz, Common Sense Media’s director of digital media. “They believe that social media helps their friendships, makes them feel more outgoing and gives them confidence.”