After 13+ years in Digital Media, I’ve seen things that have wowed me and worried me. As a parent, the Internet & social media delights me yet terrifies me.

The things my daughter has instant access to! High school and many primary schools require kids to regularly access the internet as part of their studies. In 2006 the Internet impacted our social lives with the launch of social media especially Facebook.

Adults jumped at the opportunity to get involved with an obsession to share what they had for dinner. To kids, Social Media is part of their everyday life.
Children as young as 8 are clamouring to be on Facebook, begging Mum to turn a blind eye because “all my friends use it”. Most of the teens I know use at least one of the 3 most popular platforms: Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat. These have an age limit of 13 but many young children are using them, particularly Facebook, by lying about their age.

What’s worrying me about kids having access to Social Media, and many of my parent friends is the danger it poses to an innocent, trusting mind. With unlimited access to potentially inappropriate content, there is a trend to collect ‘friends’ to measure popularity tempting them to ‘friend’ somebody they don’t know. The trusting nature of a child means they believe who you say you are. It’s sadly a perfect place for adults who prey on children. They quietly contact children pretending to be another child.

I work in Social Media. I see what goes on. I get friend requests on Facebook every week from people I don’t know. My daughter was sent over 40 friend requests in the space of 3 days from people she didn’t know. So what can we do to minimise the danger to our kids who are often more ‘tech savvy’ than we are?

When my daughter started to pester me about being on Social Media I took this approach. We had a set of rules and stuck to them. There would be consequences for disobeying the rules that were carried through (very important). The punishment was to lose access to phone/laptop for a set period. Set a punishment appropriate for your child – you know them best.

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Our rules were:

We had a conversation as a family where she was encouraged to participate. Nothing was dictated. We talked about what’s appropriate to share and what wasn’t. Why she mustn’t share her home address, mobile/home phone number, school or current location. Obvious things to an adult but children see the world differently. As she got older we discussed the pressure to share inappropriate images of herself (underwear or less) and having the self-respect to say “no”. Telling us about things that made her feel uncomfortable, stressing this was nothing to be embarrassed about. The more open and honest I am with her, the more open and honest she will be with me.

There were teething issues and punishments were enforced – after all she’s still a child who can be defiant and awkward. The point is, we kept our word and she learned a lesson.

It’s not easy. Every child is different. Find the right solution for your child. A clear set of rules is a must. It’s the foundation on which to build trust between you and your child. You’re going to have to trust them to some degree using Social Media.

Future articles will discuss the individual Social Media accounts and the best way to keep safe. Don’t stress, we’ve all been there or will go there at some point.

Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook.


Read further articles on Social Media and your children here:

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