In the work of the Cyber Psychology Research Group at Nottingham Trent University, we discussed the perceived issues and harms of online social media use with young people, parents and teachers. It’s no secret that parents need to be vigilant about online safety, but as the world of social media becomes more accessible to kids still in elementary school, a whole new list of online problems has emerged. It’s important for parents to understand the various technologies their children use to keep themselves safe online. Parents can help their children navigate the digital world, including social media, through open dialogue, observation, and interaction, so they can safely enjoy and benefit from the increasingly connected world we live in.
As a parent, you can monitor your child’s social media access and help them develop good online habits. You can track your child’s online activity and turn on parental controls to check how long they’re using it and what they’re using it for. Parental control apps can also help you make sure your kids use their smart devices in an age-appropriate way.
It is important that parents become well-informed social media users by reading the relevant privacy policies to ensure they use their maturity to make informed decisions for their children. Experts say open lines of communication, age restrictions and activity tracking when needed are some steps parents can take to help children overcome the dangers of social media by allowing them to connect with their peers on their own terms. Elgersma advises parents to browse their social media feeds with their children until they are old enough to go online and openly discuss what they see.
Ensuring that lines of communication are always open and that kids use their device in a public place (where you can sometimes be the parent behind their back) are potentially more effective strategies than “following” their social account, Goetz said. Parents should regularly communicate with their children about cyberbullying and building trust so that your children can talk to you if they are being bullied.
While experts are just beginning to understand the impact of social media on children, research shows that children under 11 who use Instagram and Snapchat are more likely to have problematic digital behaviours, such as having online-only friends and visiting websites. Parents will not consent and are more likely to engage in online harassment. With these findings in mind, it’s time to look at what we know about how social media use affects children of different ages. Experts agree that it is important for children and teens to develop safe digital habits and that parents are aware of the realities of data collection and communicate with them before downloading any app, signing up for a social media account or gaining access to a virtual school. Their children should be made to share this information and this is a non-negotiable stance that needs to be taken, no matter how difficult it may be.
The emergence of platforms such as Tik-Tok brings with it a whole new paradigm in how parenting should be facilitated in the modern age.