Social Media and Kids: 4 Steps to Keep your Kids Safe on Social Media
Social media is a big part of all our lives—for networking, to keep up with the news, to stay in touch with family and friends, and for a whole host of other purposes. For teenagers, in particular, who’ve grown up in a world saturated with technological development, social media is an integral tool and an important social space that they are all exposed to at some point or the other. It is accordingly important for them to understand it, and to learn to use it responsibly and effectively.
1. Using Social Media
The social lives of children and young people almost inevitably involve—but are not limited to—social media platforms. Spaces like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and so on, are often a significant supplement to their face-to-face social lives. It is very natural for your child to want to begin using social media by the time they begin middle school, as most of their friend circles and peer groups are likely to be connecting with each other through it. If used responsibly, this can serve to strengthen their friendships and expand their social circles.
Particularly for older children, social media becomes a highly effective forum through which they can build and expand the networks of people they are connected with. Social networking provides young students with the opportunity to get in touch with a vast range of people, through trusted mutual friends and acquaintances, through verified online platforms and workshops, and so on. The advantages of having a wide social network may primarily emerge later in their lives, during their further studies and professional lives. Nevertheless, it is good practice for them to understand early on how to safely maintain and grow their networks online.
👉News and Information
Another significant use of social media platforms is their function as a news source—they are used extensively as a space in which to consume bite-sized pieces of information from a vast array of available sources. This sort of access to a massive database of information can be an extremely good way for children to build their base of general knowledge, and develop a habit of keeping themselves aware of current events.
Social media applications are also a primary source of entertainment for many children, providing access to custom selections of memes, reels and shorts, videos, articles, conversations and so on. Although the importance of leisure time and fun cannot be undermined, this function of social media is a slippery slope, particularly for children. The everyday entertainment value of social media platforms can be extremely high and consequently addictive, and the problem of regulating use becomes crucial.
For these reasons, allowing your child access to social media is healthy—but only if regulated appropriately.
2. Time Management
In terms of connection and maintaining a social life, it is extremely important for children to strike a balance between face-to-face interaction with friends and family in their vicinity, and connecting with people on social media. This balance, when achieved, will help ensure that their social media literacy grows healthily, while their in-person communication skills do not suffer. It also gives them a well-rounded social life.
One big drawback to social media, and a primary concern among parents, is its capacity to be addictive. Social media feeds tend to be highly tailored to each individual using the platform; they are meant specifically to hold the specific viewer’s interest. For this reason, entertainment provided by social media feeds intrinsically tends towards being addicting, and children, if unregulated, may spend unhealthy amounts of time on their entertainment feeds. This can be damaging to a child’s physical health, as they may end up with too little exercise or problems with their vision from too much time spent on screens. Additionally, if they end up with strong addictions, they may spend too little time on other important pursuits, such as studying, leisure reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Making sure that your child is not spending more than a couple hours per day on their social media accounts, and seeing that they get enough physical activity, in-person social interaction, and study time, is therefore key to helping them maintain a healthy digital life.
Safety is another common concern parents have regarding their children’s use of social media—with such a vast pool of information, people and organisations having access to platforms, children may be vulnerable to being exploited. The first thing to do to prevent any such circumstances, is to make sure that your child knows that they must only allow people whom they know and trust to follow them, and to have access to their social media content
Having the habit of keeping strong passwords protecting their social media accounts and personal information, to protect themselves from being hacked, is another essential rule to keep children safe on social media.
When it comes to sharing information on their social media accounts and personal chats, it is important to teach your child to be wary of strangers, and strictly guard themselves against any potentially fraudulent or otherwise harmful requests for personal information.
👉Detecting Fraud and Misinformation
It is good practice to develop your child’s critical thinking skills in terms of news consumption; teach them to take any information they come across with a grain of salt, verifying the sources they consume from, and the validity of the information.
4. Digital Etiquette
Lastly, to foster responsible digital citizenship, is it important to spend time helping your child understand the fundamentals of digital etiquette. This entails ensuring that they always remain sensitive to the people that they interact with on social media, who tend to be a very diverse set of people from all around the world. Being generally respectful in all their interactions with people, with regards to differing nationalities, culture, class, gender, religion and any other affiliations, is paramount to their being a competent user of social media.
Social media is always hotly debated for their pros and cons. Always stay in conversation with your child to help them make the best of their digital presence, while avoiding the negatives.