Social Media and Young Children

As parents, it is important to understand social media and the settings available to protect privacy and keep children safe.

Netsafe has co-launched a guide for parents whose children are using Social Media, and what they need to know → Social Media Advice for Parents.

Most social media websites have an age limit of 13 and over, but the reality is this is not actively monitored and many of our children will use these websites regardless of the limit. Knowing this, it is important parents remain vigilant and make sure their children are making informed choices online.

Given the constant news articles about suspect online activities in New Zealand, we need to be involved and be knowledgeable. We need to set a good example and do whatever we feel is the right thing for our families.

In today’s digitally accessible world it is very easy to consider social media forums such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook as exciting and age appropriate platforms for our children to use. When using them as they are intended this could be argued that they are safe. However, as a school we do not support the use of these social media forums for our students.

Here is why:
The rule of thumb for most social media platforms is that users must be 13 years old or older.

If you or your child create an account and lie about your child’s age, consider the following:
1) We would not role model lying to a police officer about our ages, or a security guard and we should consider this as just the same setting up an account the same.
2) The advertising children are exposed to during their app use, is based on this age. Take for example a ten year old, with parent’s permission opens an account. The social media platform believes that child to be 13 years old. When they have been using it for a few years, it will believe the user to be 16 years old and advertise and influence the images/information/stories accordingly. Information and imagery a 13 year old should not need to filter or be exposed to.
3) The skills needed to use these platforms are developmentally not suited for under 13 year old children. Skills such as keeping personal information private, filtering and screening friend requests and coping with the social pressure. Thus creating a vulnerability to our children to be targeted by predators online, cyber bullies or making mistakes themselves, which they would not have made, if they have not been using social media too young.

John Parson notes that it can take a predator sometimes only 4 minutes to find out a child’s address, routine and befriend them, even when they have locked “private accounts.” This is also based on the vulnerability of the age they are → How to keep kids safe online – tips from John Parsons – Family Zone NZ

To conclude, giving students access to social platforms that are restricted to users over 13 years old places undue risk and stress on our children. Please speak with your child’s teacher if you are concerned about their use of social media.
As a school we are teaching students how to navigate social media platforms in the form of Seesaw and Google Apps for Education.

Please be aware that most online gaming such as Minecraft have chat and messaging services. Do not stop your children from playing these games but ensure they have the appropriate supervision and knowledge of what to do when other players reach out to talk to them. Remind children that should a stranger in a supermarket ask them their address and name and information about their family, they’d likely not answer, or they would find their parent to inform them and ask if it is ok? The same applies to the online chat world; students need to know it is the same thing. If in doubt, ask a parent.

Be wary of platforms like Discord. Platforms like these are user-generated, which can allow for inappropriate content. Discord also lacks parental control features  Discord: What parents need to know – Family Zone NZ.

If your child is using a social forum, be their first friend request; have their log on and password details; check it regularly and get involved  and show an interest in what they are doing. As we know, not only for online scenarios but all experiences, your family values have the most influential part to play in avoiding risks.