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Social Media & Our Kids – How To Keep Them Safe

Keeping our Kids Safe on the Internet – Part 1

Social Media expert, Tricia Munn of Brisbane based ‘Eyes Open Social Media’ writes for us about the importance of navigating your (and your children’s) way through the myriad of constantly changing social media sites.

Are your children using the latest social media fads; Instagram, SnapChat and Tumblr etc.? If so, how much do you know about these sites and the differences between them and the likes of Facebook? How secure are they and what exactly is on them?

Social Media for kids

If you sit around a coffee table long enough with a bunch of parents, it doesn’t take long for the familiar lament “they are growing up too fast” to come up in discussion.

It is easy to blame the media and advertising, but really, as parents I wonder if we let go of the reigns too early?

Recent news reports about ‘sexting’ amongst teenagers and alarming growth in issues such as cyber bullying, online stalking and inappropriate material being accessed, would add some weight to the school of thought that maybe our kids just aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle the barrage of communication social networking has presented, without the guidance of their parents.

As parents we allow our children to access it – at an early age, and sometimes with very little control or advice. How much of these sites do we truly understand?

Recent Australian publications have told us that Facebook reached 1 billion users in August 2012 and of that 7.5 million users are under the age of 13, two thirds of which are under 10. One in four Australian children under 11 has a mobile phone and 80% by the time they are 13. Children as young as three are being given internet enabled devices.

There is an alarming gap between young people’s use of social networking sites and parents’ understanding of the potential implications of them being unmonitored.

You can’t reverse the clock or pull back children’s use of social networking sites to nothing. The horse has bolted and trying to reverse the clock is not a practical solution. We want our children to have access to mobile phones so that they can contact us in an emergency.

However, if we are going to let our children into the cyber world, as parent’s we need to set limitations on their accounts and teach our children how and why they should protect themselves.

Managing social media is a skill – no different to learning how to drive a car. It is now a social skill that parents need to learn about and then teach their children how to manage – practically and emotionally.

The top 3 tips for parents to help their child manage social media:

  1. Learn about the social media sites your child is using;
  2. Set limitations on their use of internet enabled devices;
  3. Be involved in your child’s social networking activities.

Overall, like all good parenting my best advice is to be involved and keep an eye on what your children are doing on social networking sites.

Eyes Open Social Media educate parents, arming them with the knowledge to recognise the dangers, choose age-appropriate sites for their children and use the settings on their child’s accounts, to limit the potential risks.

This article was first published in Issue 1 or our print magazine on 1 December, 2013.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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