How to keep my pre-teen safe on social media?
The world around us is becoming more digital every day, particularly seen as of late with the rise of digital platforms such as Tiktok and our increasing reliance on ways to connect virtually.
It is, therefore, more important than ever that we know how to keep our children safe online, as pre-teens making the transition from Primary to Secondary school may be the most vulnerable to the emotional risks of social media.
Although children aren’t legally allowed to have an account until they are at least 13 years old, there are no formal checks, so children can very easily lie about their age when they sign up.
Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longford who authored a report in 2018 titled ‘Life in Likes’ says:
“Just because a child has learnt the safety messages at primary school, does not mean they are prepared for all the challenges that social media will present.”
So what can we do as parents to protect our children online?
Here, Dr Gummer gives some advice about things we can do to better prepare pre-teens for the world of social media.
- Provide other opportunities for validation and self-worth – Social clubs and organised activities are a more organic way for children to gain self-worth away from the virtual realm, by interacting with their peers and being active in the community.
- Encourage face-to-face interactions – Opportunities, where children can put their phone down and participate in something, help to develop meaningful relationships with others. If their friend is long-distance or face-to-face is not possible, video calls allow face to face interaction – participate in an online quiz or competition!
- Download the platforms yourself and find out about how they work – Being clued up on the most popular platforms that your child might want to access will allow you to talk to them about it and find out anything that might be a risk from the get-go.
- Be open with your child – We are our child’s best role model and asking them questions and being approachable with any questions they may have, gives us the best chance to know what’s going on with their lives. Children with strong social and emotional skills will also be best equipped to be a responsible digital citizen.
- Talk to your child’s teacher – Find out what the school is teaching about the effects of social media and if they have a policy on its use.
- Discuss with other parents – Sharing information with others will help you be more aware of the latest social media trends and you might be able to share advice and ideas too.
As the world around us becomes more digital, we can’t just expect children to cope with the demands of social media right away.
Provide them with opportunities in the real world to find validation and this will help to ease their transition into the digital world. Educate yourself about the latest social media platforms and you will be best placed to ask questions and find out whether they are ready to use them – after all, you know your child the best.