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Social media can be a great way to stay connected to friends and family, however there can be some risks too. We’ve put together some advice to help you keep your children safe while using social media. You can also check out our Online Safety Parent Toolkit for practical tips and tools that will help you talk to your child about online safety.
Things to consider before letting your children sign up to social media
What are the age restrictions?
The minimum sign up age for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube is 13. This is because a child’s social and emotional capability is still developing which
can make it more difficult to identify and manage challenges that occur on a platform designed for adults and teens. If your child is under 13 and keen to use social media, consider their capability to manage potential online challenges before setting up a profile. It is better your child is honest with you as you can help them to stay safe online.
What do you know about the app or platform?
Read about the platform and use it yourself before letting your kids use it to get a feel for how it works and what the online community is like. It’s best if the platform your child is considering has strong privacy options and offers moderating, reporting and blocking features. Before setting them up try to familiarise yourself with the privacy and security features available, and learn how implement them.
What are the platform’s data and sharing policies?
All social media platforms collect data about their users and they may share that data with partners or advertisers. Ensure that you are comfortable with the type of information that is being collected and shared.
Tips for signing kids up to social media safely
Teach the online safety basics
Make sure you’ve taught your child the online safety basics before they start using social media. Our five tips to help your child thrive online:
- Keep it locked: Show your child how to set a PIN or password to protect their devices, accounts and private information
- Keep it private: Make sure your child doesn’t disclose personal information like their address and that they know how to keep their profiles private
- Keep it helpful: Explain to your child that what they do online leaves a digital footprint so they should think twice about what they are doing – before they do it
- Keep it real: Talk to your child about how to handle approaches from strangers and why sometimes people pretend to be someone else online
- Keep it friendly: Teach your child to be kind and respectful online, and to be careful talking to, or sharing information with, people they don’t know
Before letting your child get started with using social media make sure they know about the online safety basics. This should include how to create a strong password, what information to protect online (including passwords, personal information, payment details etc), as well as discussing the concept of a digital footprint.
You can help
There are ways you can help your child navigate social media. This includes:
- Setting up the account together
- Using your email instead of your child’s (depending on their age)
- Entering their actual birthday so they’re less likely to see inappropriate content
- Becoming their friend or following them
- Visiting the safety centres and teaching them how to use the tools available. Start with how to block people, how to report content and how to use the privacy settings
Facebook | Snapchat | Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Tik Tok
- Talking regularly about the need for privacy settings, how to handle social conflict online and what to do when they are concerned
- Creating an online safety plan so that you and your child knows what to do if something were to go wrong online
Set boundaries and expectations
It’s important you understand more about the online activities and experiences your child has or wants to explore. Talk to them about what they do online, how they use devices and who they’re talking to. Take the time to tune in to the conversation – what might seem like just a game to you might be the way your child is connecting and interacting with people they don’t know.
Also consider discussing screen time and how much time spent on the app or platform is appropriate.
Research shows that parents are critical to the success of young people becoming safe, confident and capable in their use of digital technology. Regular proactive conversations at home helps to minimise the damage if things do go wrong online. It’s important to let your child know that they can talk to you about anything that happens to them online and that you’ll be there to support them no matter what.
Check in with your child often about their social media life and be on the lookout for any negative changes in behaviour. Behaviour to look out for could include changes to their mood or refusing to go to school. Visit our Online Bullying for Parents page for more advice.
WHAT’S NETSAFE’S ADVICE?
Take the time to teach your child the online safety basics before they start using social media and have regular and open conversations with them about their use of online apps helps mitigate potential harm.
Encourage your child to share with you if they have upsetting experiences and make sure they’re aware that any harassment, inappropriate language, bullying or hacking can be reported.
You don’t have to be a tech expert to keep your child safe. Our Parent Toolkit offers practical tips and tools to start the conversation with your child about online safety – and have ongoing conversations – and shares insights into the five main challenges young people experience online.