Communicating with Your Child About Social Media

A huge fear-factor when your child starts using social media is not knowing what they are doing. If you are considering allowing your child to begin using social media, first you need to understand the importance of communicating with them along the way.

The best way to keep your child safe online is to talk to them regularly and openly. This doesn’t mean only criticising their desire to move online, but voicing your concerns as well as remaining positive and asking why they want to join that particular social media site. Make sure they feel involved in the decision making, rather than like you are calling all the shots, even if you are. If you just say ‘no’ without them understanding why, they still might set up a profile in secret.

Once you have come to a decision about whether they can step into the online world of social media, it is important to set boundaries. This is where parental monitoring tools like Online Them come in useful. Decide, together, which sites you allow them to have, and discuss what is appropriate to be doing online. For example, discuss the importance of keeping personal information, like location and what school they go to, private. Additionally, let them know that, while people they might come across online may not always be sinister, they should only speak to and connect with people that they know in person, such as school friends or family members.

Another key point to stress is that they can come to you if they ever encounter a problem, such as unwanted messages or bullying, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of but it is important that they do not keep it to themselves. To stay in the loop and be aware of who your child is speaking to and when they are online, you can use parental monitoring tool Online Them which produces daily reports and real time alerts covering adult content, high-risk words and insults, mentions of life events and crime, and more.

Set up the account with them and show them how to block and report people, how to ensure their information stays private, and how to add and accept friends and followers. Discuss with them that, although they may feel that sharing information and pictures on social media is ‘no big deal’, once something is online, it can’t be taken back. Even if a post is deleted minutes after publishing, it could already have been copied or screen-shot by someone and posted somewhere else. Discuss the dangers of sharing location and real-time updates such as checking into a shopping centre with friends, as this enables online predators or bullies to track their location and find them in person.

A recent study found that the majority of teens and pre-teens have talked with their parents about how much time they can spend on social media, but 25% of teens report that their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what they do or say online, suggesting that, although parents are communicating about social media, they are not asking the crucial questions (Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens 2015).



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