It is quite dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a mod­ern child with­out social net­works, since this is not only an impor­tant part of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but also a valu­able assis­tant in learn­ing: class­mates, con­tacts, school groups. We should not for­get about enter­tain­ment that allows chil­dren to unload their heads and relax.

Prob­a­bly, every par­ent thinks that the abuse of social net­works will not lead to good, because it cer­tain­ly can­not do with­out spe­cif­ic dan­gers and var­i­ous traps. But if we can’t keep kids from using social media, then the only way out is to try to make these friend­ships as safe and use­ful as pos­si­ble.

Isn’t it too early?

Every year the age of social net­work users is decreas­ing. This is large­ly due to the con­tent that fills them: top­ics are “younger”, new areas of online activ­i­ties are emerg­ing, includ­ing those relat­ed to the chil­dren’s audi­ence. It is encour­ag­ing that more and more appli­ca­tions can find a “safe search” but­ton that pro­tects chil­dren from inap­pro­pri­ate con­tent.

Many moms and dads take a tough stance when it comes not only to social media, but also to the Inter­net. “There is noth­ing for him to do there, it’s too ear­ly!” It is dif­fi­cult to argue with this, but at the same time it is nec­es­sary to under­stand: the age of users of the glob­al net­work is decreas­ing, and knowl­edge in the con­di­tions of dig­i­tal­iza­tion of our lives is increas­ing. If ear­li­er a con­ven­tion­al five-year-old child could not find the brows­er icon on the desk­top, now sev­en-year-old chil­dren active­ly main­tain per­son­al blogs, using all the func­tions of social net­works, appli­ca­tions and aux­il­iary plat­forms. And sev­en years is far from the low­er lim­it.

It turns out that you should not get hung up on the ideas of “ear­ly” or “late”. It is more impor­tant and more prac­ti­cal to car­ry out full-fledged work on Inter­net edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram togeth­er with the child. No mat­ter how smart and quick-wit­ted your child is, not every­one is able at such a young age to rec­og­nize a fake account or ana­lyze the verac­i­ty of oth­er peo­ple’s words.

Social networks and personal boundaries

Some par­ents believe that the safe­ty of the child on social net­works is some­thing about sur­veil­lance and con­trol. This is a com­mon mis­take! Such behav­ior can just sig­nif­i­cant­ly wors­en rela­tions with chil­dren and shake con­fi­dence in you as an adult.

Online safe­ty for chil­dren does not begin with total sur­veil­lance and dai­ly check­ing of chats with friends, but with accep­tance of the needs of the child, rejec­tion of judg­ment and deval­u­a­tion.

First of all, social net­works are designed to sat­is­fy the child’s need for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and also to help him form use­ful social con­nec­tions and devel­op relat­ed skills. For exam­ple, mod­ern teenagers aged 12–14 have an aver­age of 100 sub­scribers on social net­works. This num­ber is equal to the aver­age num­ber of con­nec­tions of an adult.

In addi­tion to the above, the social net­work is a pow­er­ful infor­ma­tion field that affects the inter­ests, desires, dreams and aspi­ra­tions of the child. Here they receive sup­port, help, recog­ni­tion of their suc­cess, praise and a lot of use­ful con­tent.

That is why par­ents are cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly not rec­om­mend­ed to “spy” on their chil­dren in social net­works. And even more so, you don’t need to write to them from a fake page. It is bet­ter to com­mu­ni­cate with the child in real­i­ty, at home, so that he under­stands that you are friend­ly, and in case of dan­ger on the Inter­net, he will be able to ask for help or advice from you, with­out fear of a night­mar­ish reac­tion.

Reminder for parents

We all know that online dan­gers are not fic­tion at all. We are talk­ing about virus­es, and non-chil­dren’s groups, and sus­pi­cious peo­ple, and scam­mers, and bul­ly­ing with trolling. The ques­tion aris­es: how to make the friend­ship of a child and social net­works safe? We have made a spe­cial memo for par­ents.

one. Intro­duce kids to social media. What does it mean? Make sure that the child under­stands why he needs to reg­is­ter on a par­tic­u­lar site. Maybe he wants to hang out with class­mates, watch movies, be in a dinosaur group, or laugh at new memes. Tell your­self that some social net­works are designed for video con­tent (for exam­ple, Tik Tok), while oth­ers are main­ly for per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion or upload­ing pho­tos (Vkon­tak­te, Insta­gram). Be clear about what con­tent can and can­not be shared. If nec­es­sary, show chil­dren impor­tant fea­tures of the site or app, such as how to ban a per­son if they vio­late per­son­al bound­aries, are rude, or write unam­bigu­ous mes­sages.

2. Offer to help cre­ate an account. Of course, this rec­om­men­da­tion applies more to younger chil­dren. Teenagers, most like­ly, will not under­stand such a pro­pos­al. Dis­cuss the gen­er­al rules — what pho­to is accept­able to put on the pro­file pic­ture? What to include in the descrip­tion? This will con­sol­i­date the first secu­ri­ty rules: you can write about your favorite films, but it is absolute­ly impos­si­ble to put a phone num­ber or home address on pub­lic dis­play.

3. Par­tic­i­pate tact­ful­ly in your child’s online life. We were all teenagers and we remem­ber how excit­ing and at the same time pleas­ant it is to exchange opin­ions in social net­works, receive likes and oth­er respons­es. Mom or dad may not be evil guards, but, for exam­ple, they can leave wit­ty com­ments (if the child doesn’t mind), or show groups with cool stick­ers, or teach you how to down­load music. In the evening, you can dis­cuss the lat­est Insta­gram pho­tos of your favorite music artist. All this, of course, if the child him­self is not against such par­tic­i­pa­tion on his online page.

four. Intro­duce Kids to Online Eti­quette. First of all, chil­dren need to be explained: anonymi­ty and safe­ty in a social net­work is usu­al­ly an illu­sion. Tell us that there is such a thing as “cyber­ag­gres­sion”, which includes both bul­ly­ing (bul­ly­ing) and trolling (delib­er­ate­ly pro­vok­ing a con­flict). And then there are peo­ple who can pre­tend to be a friend in order to get per­son­al pho­tos, lure out mon­ey, an address or an account pass­word. Remind your child about impor­tant safe­ty rules: do not share your data and the data of friends or par­ents (phone num­bers, address­es, pass­words) with any­one, do not start con­ver­sa­tions with strangers on social net­works, do not fol­low sus­pi­cious links, do not get involved in dis­putes in groups, do not respond to spam and imme­di­ate­ly block it.

5. Help strate­gize. Explain to the child that if some­thing (or some­one) on the social net­work caus­es sus­pi­cion, fear, dis­com­fort, then he needs to con­tact his moth­er or father. But in some cas­es, he can do it him­self. For exam­ple, black­list an annoy­ing troll or tem­porar­i­ly dis­able com­ment­ing on pho­tos on your page.

6. Use parental con­trol soft­ware. These are aux­il­iary pro­grams that will not allow the child to fol­low a dan­ger­ous link. In addi­tion, they block ads and have a fil­ter­ing func­tion. How­ev­er, it is def­i­nite­ly not nec­es­sary to go too far, mon­i­tor­ing chats and instant mes­sen­gers, espe­cial­ly when it comes to teenagers. Parental con­trol pro­grams should be a secu­ri­ty sup­port, not a way to find out what the child did not plan to show you. Treat with respect to his per­son­al data and to the secre­cy of cor­re­spon­dence.

Despite the unshak­able rules and rec­om­men­da­tions, you need to under­stand that not only social net­works are devel­op­ing, but also types of fraud and deceit. Even the most advanced child can pay for his frank­ness or gulli­bil­i­ty. This applies not only to scam­mers, but even to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of being ridiculed, scared or banned from his beloved com­mu­ni­ty. How­ev­er, this is also part of vir­tu­al life. As in real life, some moments you need to learn to accept and expe­ri­ence. And here it is def­i­nite­ly impos­si­ble to do with­out parental accep­tance and sup­port.

If you under­stand that the sit­u­a­tion is out of con­trol and you can’t cope, or you notice that it has become very dif­fi­cult to nego­ti­ate with the child, be sure to seek psy­cho­log­i­cal help.