By Jessica Humphreys
Children are growing up in a technologically fuelled world everything they do will have some connection to the internet and as a parent it’s hard to keep up.
We’ve addressed some of the questions we are commonly asked by parents below:
WHAT AGE SHOULD I LET MY CHILD HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT?
This depends on the individual child, their maturity and their experience within the digital landscape. As a parent, it’s important to make sure you have regular and open conversations with your kids about the Internet and social media.
Whilst discussing dangers and how to handle them is important, it’s also worth discussing the many benefits that the Internet can provide.
Instilling fear in your children could discourage them from talking to you if they do face situations that make them uncomfortable or that they may perceive as dangerous for fear that you won’t let them online.
Facebook, What’s App, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat all requires users to be 13 and over and even LinkedIn allows users to sign up from the age of 14. However, this doesn’t mean that children won’t sign up anyway using false information.
If you are going to permit your children to use a social networking site follow these helpful tips:
- It’s your responsibility to ensure that you have a good understanding of the platform and how it works.
- Depending on the age of your child it may be worth having them login on a communal iPad or computer so you can keep an eye on their activity.
- Make sure that their account is private and that they can’t be found in a public search.
- Connect with your child, follow them on Snapchat, make sure you are friends with them on Facebook but respect their privacy. If you see something that concerns you bring it up in a face-to- face discussion as opposed to commenting in a public space where you may embarrass them.
- Do your research. Some applications like YouTube have a dedicated version just for children – kids.youtube.com
HOW DO YOU SUPPORT YOUNGER CHILDREN WHO ARE BEING INTRODUCED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING FROM SEEMINGLY INNOCENT GAMES?
We traditionally think of social networking sites as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. However any site or application that enables people to communicate with one another is a social networking site and may potentially have risks.
In March this year, a Melbourne woman claimed a predator who purported to be Justin Bieber targeted her eight-year-old daughter asking for nudes on the app Musical.ly. The app, seemingly harmless enables users to create music videos and send them to friends.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID SITUATIONS LIKE THIS?
- Many young children have access to an iPad for schoolwork meaning it’s important that you assess the privacy settings and ensure that they need your permission to download applications
- Encourage your children to only use their iPad in a communal area like the lounge room where you can monitor their access
- Before they start downloading apps discuss the potential risks involved and what they should do if someone they don’t know tries to add them or engage them in conversation
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO ENSURE YOUR OLDER CHILDREN AREN’T KNOWINGLY ACCESSING ILLICIT MATERIAL ONLINE?
There are many online tools and plugins that enable you to block, restrict and monitor online access. It is important to consider your kid’s privacy before you go down this path and to be aware that there are multiple ways for them to access online content these days.
If you do believe that monitoring online access is the best path for you to go down you may want to consider a tool like Web Watcher www.webwatcher.com. This can be installed on phones or computers and offers blocking and recording enabling you to watch your child’s computer activity in real time.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD IS BEING BULLIED ONLINE?
Firstly, telling a child to get offline, to stay away from their computer or not to use the social networking site where they are being targeted is not realistic today.
If you find your child is being bullied there isn’t necessarily one right way to handle it, there are a number of complexities that need to be considered.
First, show encouragement and support for your child. Listen to them and consider their feelings in this. Attempt to determine if it’s an ongoing situation or a one off. Ask them if they have asked the person to stop and if they have blocked the individual or multiple people that may be involved.
From here, you need to determine whether you should report it to the school, sporting club etc. or potentially even the Police depending on the severity of the situation.
It’s important to keep the conversation going with your kids and provide emotional support along with the tools that can help them. The Children’s eSafety Commissioner has several resources available for parents as well as options for reporting cyber bullying www.esafety.gov.au
Jessica Humphreys is the founder and director of Social Concepts, a communications agency servicing the suburbs of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. If you have any questions or would like Jessica to speak or run workshops at your school or sporting club please contact email@example.com
or (03) 8782 3751.