These days it’s not uncommon for kids as young as 5 to have a social media presence. Often these profiles are run by doting parents and are all about having fun. But what about when your kids decide they are ready for their own profile? How young is too young? And how do you keep them safe?
Aussie parents support their kids using technology
Data collected by Real Insurance last year found most parents see technology as a positive thing and allow their children to experiment online, even with social media. Key findings include:
- 8 in 10 Australian parents believe it's better to find ways technology can best be used to benefit their children rather restrict use of technology.
- 23.1% of parents think it's appropriate for children aged 11 - 13 to start their own social media accounts, while only 6.1% think it's appropriate for children aged 8 -10.
- Parents estimate that on average children aged 2 - 4 spend 1 hour a day on social media, children aged 5 - 7 spend less than 2 hours daily, while children aged 8 - 10 spend 2 to 3 hours.
- 84.7% of parents who know their kids have at least one social media account claim to vet the friends they add to social media at least some of the time
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Even if we’re no longer concerned about the effects of social media on our kids it’s still important to have conversations that limit the risks.
The most important safety measures
Ruth Dearing knows all about raising kids in the tech age. Keeping her two boys safe online is top priority and Ruth shares all her knowledge through her site Children and Technology. Here’s her advice to parents for staying safe on social media:
“It’s important for parents to work together with their kids on social media for them to have any hope of being safe there. Set up a new account together using the highest possible privacy settings, and make sure you know the password.
Set the rules clearly upfront for social media use, such as when and how often they can use it, and what sites they can use. Warn them they will probably come across content that will upset them, and ask them to approach you when this happens.
Kids need to understand that what goes online stays online, and the implications of that. They should think first before sharing anything at all, and only post things online they’re happy for the world to see (they’ll need your guidance with this).
Finally, it’s important to teach your kids social media etiquette from the start. They should be the same person online as they are in real life. Following the golden rule of treating others how they wish to be treated when they’re online is a great starting point.”
Find Ruth on Facebook and Twitter.
3 rules for parents
Arna van Goch is a social media expert for parents from Horizons21. Her online course, 'Keeping Your Kids Safe Online' has helped countless parents with understanding how social media works, what the main dangers are, and how, despite it's scary nature, it can also do a lot of good. She shared with us 3 steps parents should take when introducing their kids to social media.
1. Care about what's on the inside, not outside
“Don't let your kids think that they should put any value on looks - society does it already. Don’t comment on their physique, or anyone else's for that matter. Comment on their 'glow' or their 'attitude' and kids will learn to value that more.”
2. Security Settings Check
“Make it a rule to have spot checks. Every once in a while, every couple of weeks, check social media settings, check messages, check what they're writing. Ask them who they are speaking to, any new friends? Let them have a conversation with you so they are able to better learn how to judge appropriately.”
3. Sometimes mistakes are OK
“A lot of parents today want to keep their kids in a marshmallow bubble. Your job as a parent is not just to keep your kids safe, but teach them how to deal with danger and/or adversity. It's therefore better to let them make mistakes under your loving gaze, where you can help them stand back up again then it is for them to live a super sheltered life and then have to deal with the 'real world' on their own.”
Find out more about Arna’s work on Facebook.
Prioritise the real world
Farmville may seem pretty cool but it’s not the same as an actual farm. Likewise any technological simulations of real life and nature. Social media is convenient to jump onto and waste the day away. Plan family outings that will keep your kids connected to the real world from nature to family bonding. You could take them down the coast for a weekend or out to dinner with a tech-free rule.
It’s also important that your kids learn to make friends outside of the online arena. Most of their life will not take place online. From navigating school to their future careers, they need to build the right social skills to handle offline life. The answer might be as simple as a backyard trampoline that gives them the incentive to invite friends over more and ignore the internet for a few hours. The bottom line is, while online and offline friends are both valuable they are very different and a healthy social life will include a mix of both.
If you worry your kids are becoming addicted to technology then here’s what you can do about it.
Build good habits early
As your kids grow up they’ll be taking more control of their online presence. According to Real Insurance’s research, 41.9% of kids aged 11-13 use their computer only when an adult is present in the room, by 14-16 this has dropped to under 20%. Similarly, smartphones are used unsupervised by 11-13 year olds in 48.1% of Aussie families and this jumps to 76.3% of teens. In light of this, the online habits you help your kids create when they’re first becoming used to the technologies are very important.
Even if it’s only a short time, make sure there is a period where you maintain low level control (ideally at the start) and know who their friends are and what kinds of interactions are taking place. This way you’ll be confident in their abilities to take care of themselves as the time comes for them to be more autonomous.
Keeping your computer in the family room is a great place to start. It means you’ll be able to monitor their activity and are always close at hand if they come across unsettling material or a situation they are unsure how to respond too. Shop MyDeal furniture for desks, chairs and more if you need to set up an allocated tech area for your family.
Social media is not going away any time soon. Being aware of your kids engagement with it will give you the chance to teach them how to use it safely.