Almost daily I see parents saying things like “my child is not allowed on any social media” and while I respect every parents right to parent their kids the way want, I do feel this is very short sighted. Instead of banning platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as parents we should be taking the opportunity to educate our children about HOW to be online responsibly.
When we gave the older two phones and/or tablets, we spent time talking to them about what the dangers are when it comes to sharing information. We still have these discussions with them both and they have been online for over 4 years.
Of course there are dangers.
I work in Social Media, I am very much aware of the dangers of children being online unsupervised. I know the risks but I also know that this is the world my children were born into and if I don’t educate them on how to be online safely, how will they learn?
From my research and experience, banning things seldom has the desired effect and if anything it harms your child in the long run because they will not be equipped with the right skills. So in our home, we don’t ban anything, we talk, educate and learn rather.
It does need to be age appropriate.
I am not saying give your 7 year old a phone and let them fend for themselves. I am saying teach your 7 year old how to be online on age appropriate apps responsibly and check up on what they are doing.
How do you do that?
If the device they are using is only for them, download only the apps that you want them to use. Add a password to your Play Store so that they can’t download anything without you first checking it. If the device is shared, create a folder for each child, if they know where to go they seldom play around on other apps. But if they are still young you will need to monitor this.
Explain to them the dangers of clicking on links/ads. Jack and Emma are very good with this. They will wait for the adds to play or close the ad.
For the older kids who are on social media platforms, explain to them what to look out for. When the older two started on Facebook, they would come and ask us about people they didn’t know. They are both very guarded about who they speak to on any of the platforms they are on and both have very small circles. I still do check their profiles and have had to get them to delete content now and then.
Jack and Emma recently bough their very own smart phones*. They are little devices with limited capabilities but they have the basics. So we have started explaining to them not to answer calls unless it is a number they have saved. They are both very good about it and when an sms comes through they show us and ask us who it is and what they want. We have set the settings on both of their phones so they can’t download certain apps.
Neither of my older kids are on Facebook and they seldom, if ever post to Instagram but do browse it a lot. They do both, however, have the skills needed to navigate the platforms should they decide to become more active. They are aware of people creating fake accounts and both of them are very aware of fake news and often pick it up before I do.
It does not consume their life at all. In fact, some days, when I am trying to call them I wish they were a little more attached to their phones. As it is now, I am happy with the balance they have naturally developed for themselves.
I have never encouraged them to be online but I feel it is my responsibility to educate them about the dangers and joys of social media so that they are able to make an educated choice and have the skills they need to navigate this rather scary space.
This approach has worked for MY family. Both of my teens are very open with us and we take full advantage of this and we talk a lot about a lot of things – even the hard stuff like human trafficking and stolen identities. This , in my opinion, is the most important thing.
I would love to hear how you and your family are navigating this issue with your kids?
*Jack found a deal at HiFi Corp for a little smart phone that cost R350. he had the money and he asked us if the could have it. We researched it and honestly had no reason to not get it for him. Emma obviously also wanted one which is why they have the phones. The use it mainly to talk to their grandparents and play games. Most days they lie next to our bed uncharged.