Whilst the internet and the interconnectivity of our modern world has brought many benefits, we are all aware there is a dark side to the web and want to try to protect our children when they are online.
Strictly speaking, children shouldn’t have social media accounts of their own. Nearly all social media gives a minimum age limit of around 13, and even then, it should be with parental permission.
However, kids learn quickly how to get around the rules using fake birth dates and their parents’ email address, often with the knowledge of their parent, so clearly our children are using social media.
Some recent studies suggest social media may be quite damaging to our children’s happiness and self-confidence. An article from the Guardian discusses one report that suggests that one hour on social media can reduce a child’s happiness with their life by around 14 per cent.
If we were employers, we could do a CRB check on people who have contact with children like the service available at http://www.carecheck.co.uk/. On the internet, however, no such checks are in place and social media accounts open up a line of communication with children.
You can try banning your children from social media, but given that many of their friends will already be using these sites, you may find they join behind your back anyway.
Set down rules
Before your child signs up, ensure you sit down and discuss the realities of social media. Explain that when things are shared publically, anyone can view the posted content and post comments, some of which can be nasty or hurtful. Most social media allows you to limit access to a poster’s content to a limited group, like just your friends and family.
Explain that online people can and do lie about who they are, where they are and how old they are and that your child needs to be cautious. Tell them that they should tell you if something upsets or disturbs them online.
Ensure they are aware there is certain information that must never be given out online; their full name, address and phone number is to be kept secret at all times.
Keep an eye on your kids online. Joining the sites yourself and watching their communications and friends/followers will help you keep them safe.