Parenting

Is My Child Ready To Use Social Media?

Kids as young as 8 are pestering their parents to let them use social media and asking how many people ‘like’ their photos.

Many want their own accounts so they can get involved in the online world, but at what age is it acceptable for them to do so?  Is my child ready to use social media sites?

Most social media service and apps require users to be 13 years old to join, but with research showing that one-in-five Australian children aged 8 to 17 has been the target of cyber bullying in the past year it’s no wonder many parents are freaking out.

Here are some of your questions answered thanks to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner website, a handy website all about the online world.

1. How can I tell if my child is ready to use social media?

It’s not just about how old your child is, it’s about whether they have appropriate maturity and resilience levels to interact safely online. They might think they’re ready but consider these questions when making your decision.

  1. Can your child withstand taunts from others without getting upset?

This is a real possibility and something you need to discuss with your child. If you give them permission to set up a social media account, then use it with them for awhile and look at different profiles and feeds and talk about how some people use it for good as well as bad. Teach them how to filter, block and report people.

  1. Does your child understand what’s safe to put online?

If you’re worried they might post information that allows people to locate or identify them, even after you’ve talked about the dangers, you might need to help them use social networking sites until they get the hang of it.

  1. Do they realise the importance of protecting their personal details?

Details such as their address, name, phone number, where they live and photos of them might put them in a risky situation. If you need to continually explain why they need to keep personal information private they might not be ready.

Hint: Explain to your child that once all their personal information is made public it’s almost impossible to control or get back. Is my child ready to use social media sites?

2. But won’t my children feel left out if they aren’t on social media?

If your child isn’t quite ready but you’re worried they might be teased or left out of social occasions because they don’t have a Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram account, then you might have to compromise.

Let them have social networking accounts but only if they follow strict rules such as only using sites with your supervision or being in charge of their login details. While they might be resistant, tell them if they agree you promise not to comment publicly on their profile or posts.

3. What if someone posts abusive or offensive contents on my child’s site?

Sadly this is likely so it’s wise you both know how to report this behaviour. Show your child the safety centre of the site, they all have one, and teach them how to block or report people. A large list of site safety centres can be found on this page.

4. How can I supervise my child’s behaviour on social sites?

From being their online friend to having access to their login details, it’s important to keep an eye on their activity. Keep the lines of communication open and remember it’s better to have an agreement in place than your kids sneaking around behind your back. Sure you might find out things you don’t want to know about their friends but do you best to refrain from commenting unless you have valid safety concerns or you might lose your child’s trust.

Social networking is here to stay and it does give your child a fun and engaging way to stay connected, share photos and chat with faraway friends. Just make sure they are in control of social media and not the other way around.

emily-toxward
written by:

Emily Toxward

When former journalist Emily Toxward isn’t wrangling her three kids she’s juggling the demands writing and failing fabulously at being a domestic goddess. A published writer for nearly 20 years, Emily left full-time work in 2008 to have children and write from home. Always on the go, she spends her days negotiating with an army of little people she created and visits her local Gold Coast beaches for a little sanity.