Technology, Kids and Social Media

Two of the most common questions parents ask is what age should children be allowed to access social media and what age they should have their own devices and gadgets.  These are complex questions to answer and the challenge for parents is to help their children enjoy the benefits of going online and using technology while building their skills and knowledge to identify and avoid the risks as their exposure increases.

Most popular social media sites set their age limit at 13 – this has nothing to do with online safety – but rather to do with a US law that prevents the collection and storage of personal information from children under the age of 13.  However, there is no onus on website operators to verify the age of users. Experts believe that children should be at least 13 years (with many preferring them to be older due to graphic content and geotagging issues) when accessing social media.  Parents need to take into account their children’s age, level of maturity, social and emotional development including resilience, and the type of social media their teenager wants to access (e.g. 13 for Facebook and 16+ for Snapchat).

In regards to the use of technology, children often have access to connected services like iPad and smartphones from a very young age. They might use these services to view family photos and videos, using educational apps or watching their favourite program. According to the e-safety Commissioner, provided you manage their access, stay involved with what they are accessing and set some rules around their use, there is no reason why a pre-schooler can’t enjoy the use of connected services such as those listed above. 

Here are some tips to ensure you and your child (under the age of 13) are able to get the most out of technology and use it in a healthy and constructive way.

Tips and strategies

  1. Maintain and work at your relationships with your children as this will stand you in good stead when setting boundaries around technology (and later social media use).

  2. Through conversations over many years, develop your child’s digital intelligence: e.g.   discuss how they may recognise the difference between online information that is helpful or unhelpful, true or false, useful or not useful; encourage your child to question things on the internet; discuss what cyber bullying and abusive content is, and how this can be reported.  Empower your child by providing them with strategies for dealing with future possible negative online experiences.

  3. Increase your own knowledge and become more skilled at engaging in online activities and exploring social networking sites before your child reaches the teen years.

  4. Develop a digital and screen time plan as early as possible and encourage age-appropriate input to the plan from your child. This plan includes how you as parents will model responsible digital and screen time; times to unplug and engage in family face to face time; no smartphone & TV’s in anyone’s bedrooms; physical locations for internet use - this should be in an area where you can keep an eye on what your child is viewing; limits on when wireless internet connections and/or mobile devices will be available; and not clicking on pop-ups as some pop-ups that seem safe can lead to pornography sites or ask for personal or financial information.  Explain why boundaries and rules are important

  5. Encourage your child to use child-friendly platforms like kiddle.com (instead of google), YouTube Kids and Messenger Kids, which have different safety settings, require more parental involvement, and feature age-appropriate content. These platforms can help your child learn how to navigate social media later on. 

  6. Use a family-friendly internet service provider (ISP) that provides proven online safety protocols. However, filtering tools should not be solely relied and parental supervision and monitoring is still required.

  7. Make sure passwords are strong and updated regularly.  Encourage your children not to share passwords with friends.

  8. As always with parenting, take the time to look after yourself too.
     

Some useful sources of information

  • E-Safety Commissioner (government website)

  • ReachOut.com

  • KidsHelpline has a section on social media and safety

  • Raising Children’s Network

 

Next weeks topic: Teenagers and Social media.

© 2017 by WiringKids. 

Contact Us

Wendy Muller
wmuller@wiringkids.com.au

(+61) 0402 668 752

 

Julie Holschier (OAM)
jholschier@wiringkids.com.au

(+61) 0447 648 044

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