Teaching Kids to be Smart on Social Media
Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Complex
According to research from Common Sense Census, 56% of children have their own social media accounts, based on the parents’ survey responses. Among those children, parents reported that the average age when joining a social media platform was as young as 12. From extensive research, we know that the phenomenon of children and social media can be roughly divided into the following aspects (as perceived by parents):
- Exposure to harmful content (sex, drugs, violence etc.)
- Likewise to dangerous people
- The risk of cyber bullying, and its relation to depression and suicide
- Oversharing of personal information
- Exposure to excessive advertisements and distractions
- Privacy concerns including the collection of data, not to mention identity theft
- Interference with sleep, exercise, homework, family activities etc.
- Staying connected with friends (particularly during Covid-19)
- Meeting new friends with shared interests
- Finding communities and support for specific activities or personal issues
- Sharing art work, music, and other passions
- Exploring and expressing themselves, creatively and safely
In this interconnected world, parents feel they’re on their own when trying to guide their children through social media. Fortunately, the growing need for education and communication has led several tech and cybersecurity companies to release family-oriented products. Check out Apple’s iOS Screen Time, and Norton Family. For our money though, the most exciting product in this area is Trend Micro’s newly released Trend Micro Family — in particular, its intriguing Social Media Checker tool.
Source: Trend Micro
Recently, social media platforms themselves have come under a lot more scrutiny. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube constantly appear in news segments on children and the dangers of the internet. Back in September, TikTok partnered with the nonprofit, Internet Matters, to produce a set of educational resources for parents. In the same month Facebook stopped work on Instagram Kids(for under-13s) after negative backlash in the wake of a Wall Street Journal investigation.
It’s the latter, Facebook, which has faced the harshest criticism in its attempts to woo younger users and its seeming disregard for health and wellbeing as it pertains to profits. More recently, the whistleblower Frances Haugen (a former product manager at Facebook) has been scathing of her former employer, claiming that Facebook both knows and couldn’t care less that Instagram bullying “follows children into their bedrooms”.
Add this all up and it’s easy to see why the impression parents are left with is of predatorial companies that treat users as profit-based resources rather than people. When this relates to children it’s a serious matter — and why education and parental involvement is of crucial importance.
Communication = Education
It’s important to prepare our children and teens for the online world. We need to discuss online dos and don’ts — to communicate media literacy. Here are some suggestions to get the conversation going:
1. Set the tone. Begin your talk in a calm, neutral way — and stay calm.
2. Ask before you tell. Ask your child what apps or platforms they use. In a sense, you’re entering the child’s arena: let them guide you too.
3. Lead by example. Being honest and transparent will help them trust you in serious moments.
4. Run through the positive and negative aspects above: reach consensus.
5. Talk about permanence and privacy. Let them know that what’s posted online is permanent.
6. Friending or following your child’s social media accounts.
7. Perhaps broach the topic of no-screen times and periodic detoxes.
8. Ensuring that privacy settings are turned on to limit access to personal information
9. Instructing teens NOT to share sensitive information online — especially with strangers.
10. Exploring parental control apps that limit internet access in content and duration.
Before we leave you, we’d also recommend taking a look at the Trend Micro Cyber Academy, an interactive series for kids and their parents on internet safety and digital wellness. And, as ever, if you’ve found this article a useful and/or interesting read, please do SHARE with family and friends to help keep them secure and protected.