Social media can be a great way to stay connected to friends and family, however there can be some risks. We’ve put together some advice to help you keep your children safe while using social media.
Things to consider before signing up:
What are the age restrictions?
Most social media platforms have an age restriction of 13. Think carefully about signing your child up on a social media platform if they are younger than the minimum age as they may not have developed the skills needed to deal with all that could go wrong on social media. Of course, if they’re under the age minimum it’s always better that they’re honest with you about using an app or site, rather than doing it behind your back. This way, you can help them to stay safe online.
What do you know about the app or platform?
Learn about the platform and download it and use it yourself 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.
What does their school think?
It’s a good idea to look into what your child’s school says about social media usage and use this to help set expectations of behaviour with your child.
Our top five tips for signing kids up to social media safely:
1. Make sure your child knows the online safety basics:
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.
2. Help them set up their social media account:
Set up your child’s social media profile with them. Consider using your email address rather than your child’s so you can keep a closer eye on them. It’s also best to use your child’s actual birth year – this will make it less likely that they’ll see inappropriate content on the platform or app. When you set up their profile make sure you configure their privacy and security settings so that their profile, location, photos and information are as private as possible.
3. Set boundaries and expectations:
Talk to your child about respectful behaviour online and what you expect of them, a helpful place to start on this could be by going through the term and conditions or community standards on the platform together. Talk about the potential challenges they could face while using the platform and emphasise the importance of being careful who you ‘friend’ online. Discuss what they should do if they receive a message or friend request from someone they don’t know – generally it’s best if they check with you first before responding. It might also be a good idea to add your child as a ‘friend’ so you can keep an eye on them. Also consider discussing screen time and how much time spent on the app or platform is appropriate.
4. Give them the tools they need to stay safe:
Most social media organisations have a safety centre with tools for staying safe online. Take a look at the safety centres of the apps or websites your child uses, and teach them how to use the tools available.
Start with how to block people, how to report content and how to use the privacy settings.
Below are some links to the safety centres on some of the biggest platforms:
In addition, you can also create an ‘online safety plan’ with your child so that both you and your child know what to do if something were to go wrong online. Visit our Online Safety Plan page for more information on what this plan should include.
5. Check in
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. If you suspect online bullying could be the cause, visit our Online Bullying for Parents page for advice. Remember 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. Remind them that if something happens to them online that makes them feel uncomfortable or upset they can always talk to you about it.