Online Safety: Teaching kids safe practise on social media
Learning how to use social media in a safe way is something that all children (and most adults) still need to learn. When your children get a bit older, they are going to want to set up their own social media profiles. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have become the primary way for a lot of people to communicate, and it is inevitable that your children will want to be involved. Whilst we wouldn’t recommend ever agreeing to let your child join a social network before the legal age of 13, it is a good idea to get involved when they reach the minimum age restriction and help them get started. If you refuse to let them join their friends on sites like Facebook then it is very likely that they will just go ahead and do what they want behind your back. By getting involved from the start, you can help your child learn how they can protect themselves and why doing so is of utmost importance. It will also give you the opportunity to teach them what you consider acceptable behaviour and how they should manage their digital presence.
Explain that when you post something online, it will be there forever. Anything that is posted online can become available to the public. Teach your children to use the privacy settings to their advantage, but never to rely on them. If they want something to remain private, it is best not to upload it to the internet at all, as once it’s online there is no guarantee that all traces of it can be deleted.
Let them know that bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. When a child turns to social media as a forum for hurtful speech, the risks are unmeasurable. Not only could that child cause severe emotional distress to another human being, but they could also face serious criminal prosecution. They also need to be made aware that if they are on the receiving end of any bullying behaviour, that they need to be able to come to you. There are ways of reporting and dealing with such conduct and your child needs to be mature enough to be able to ask for help.
Tell them NEVER to post confidential information online. Young people seem to be particularly vulnerable to this error in judgement. Regardless of whether they believe that they have adequate privacy filters, all it would take was one person who can see their content to share that to their own public profile and whatever private information was posted becomes available to billions of people. It is definitely worth stressing to your child what information is not ok to post online, this would include:
- Full Name
- Telephone Number
- Email Address
- Social Security/National Insurance Number
- Bank Details
- Date of Birth
Explain that posting emotional statuses is inadvisable. It’s inevitable that your teenager will experience at least one moment of anger, upset or outrage during the delightful emotional roller coaster that is puberty and it’s human nature to react without thinking through the consequences. However, whenever possible, they should take a moment to imagine how an emotionally charged social media post could affect the feelings, safety and well-being of those around them. Posting an angry tweet in the heat of the moment may feel cathartic, but the momentary pleasure gained from writing it isn’t worth the potential harm it could create.
Advise them never to post specific location related posts. Checking-in has become a favourite of many social media users, it allows them to show people the cool places that they get to go and the fun lives that they lead. But it also makes it very easy for people to track you down. If your child is without adult supervision, they should never post their real-time location online.
It is down to every family to decide on the best approach for their children when first engaging on social media, but ensuring that your children understand appropriate conduct and good practise is essential as it can prevent numerous disasters later on.