Your child is online – at least, it’s likely that he is. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s research report “Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media,” two-thirds of children ages 12 to 13, 85 percent of 14 to 15-year-olds, and 92 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds admit to using social media in the past four weeks.
Whether your child has already started social networking or is just beginning to think about it, wrestling with the question, ‘Should I really let my child use this type of technology?’ is a common 21st century problem for many parents. Deciding if, and when, to let your child start exploring social media is a personal decision. Even though you might post pictures on Facebook or tweet your favorite friends, that doesn’t mean your child is ready to do the same. What do you need to know before making a decision?
Does your child understand the difference between a real friend and an online one? Meeting a new friend who shares your interests, thinks the same way you do and really, really, really wants to spend time ‘talking’ to you is exciting, isn’t it? If this friend is someone you met online, you take the new pal with a strong side of caution. But, does your child do the same?
Young children (and even teens) may not fully understand that the anonymity of the online world means that predators can masquerade as kids who ‘friend’ them. Set strict rules with your child when it comes to who he can, and can’t, interact with through social media sites. This might mean that friends from school are okay, but strangers or friends of friends are out of the question. If your child can’t, won’t or doesn’t think he should follow these rules, then social media use needs to wait.
Your 16-year-old’s classmates are posting pictures of themselves out for the evening on Facebook. That’s normal, right? Sure. But, when those pics include the group of girls wearing crop tops and short shorts, posing for the camera it becomes a problem. Your child needs to know that what she puts on the Internet stays there – even if she thinks she can delete it. Not only can an inappropriate photo or post affect your child’s reputation now, but it can continue to haunt her for years to come.
Can your child keep his information private? If he’s posting his cell number under his Facebook profile, tweeting your address or giving out any other personal information, you’re seeing signs that he’s not ready to use social media.
Will your child accept your friend request? Following your child or tween on social media is an easy way to keep tabs on them and check out what they’re doing. If your child won’t agree to ‘friend’ you, you need to ask why. Younger kids shouldn’t have anything to hide – making it perfectly reasonable to friend a parent. Older teens may want more privacy. If your teen has demonstrated responsible social media use, giving her some leniency online (when it comes to independence) isn’t unreasonable.
Deciding to let your child use social media is a complex question. Depending on your child’s age, developmental level and understanding of Internet etiquette (including what to post, what not to post and who to talk to/not talk to), you may want to allow social networking now. When it comes down to it, you know your child better than anyone. If you trust him (and his decision-making ability) and feel that he’s responsible, it may be time for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or whatever social networking site he’s into. If not, waiting a year (or a few) doesn’t mean his world will end – even if he thinks so right now.
What do you think? We’d love to hear from you. Use the ‘Leave a reply’ section below to share.