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.