Social Media Use

If your child has a mobile phone, they are most probably on social media apps. Here are a few things that can help us know more about social media and how to protect our children.

Safe and respectful mobile phone use

If your child uses their mobile phone to communicate independently with others or access the internet, it increases the risk that your child will come across content that bothers them. It also exposes your child to risks like cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, and contact with strangers.

You can help protect your child from risky or inappropriate content and activities by teaching your child about internet safety for pre-teens and internet safety for teenagers.

You can also talk with your child about:

  • managing safety and privacy settings on their phone – for example, checking that social media profiles are private and locking the phone with facial recognition or a PIN.
  • not entering personal details like name, address, or date of birth into online accounts or forms
  • not sharing account details.
  • accepting new social media friend requests only from people they know face-to-face.
  • checking which apps use location services and switching off unnecessary ones.

Your child also needs to learn about using their mobile phone to communicate respectfully. This involves not creating or forwarding nasty or humiliating images or text messages. Using a phone respectfully is an important part of being a responsible digital citizen.

Social media for pre-teens and teenagers

Popular social media apps among pre-teens and teenagers include Instagram, Messenger, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and YouTube Kids.

Online chat in multiplayer video games, like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Clash of Clans is also a popular social media option for pre-teens and teenagers.

Using social media often involves uploading and sharing content. This includes but is not limited to:

  • creating online profiles
  • posting comments or chatting
  • uploading photos and videos
  • reacting to or ‘liking’ other people’s posts
  • sharing links
  • tagging photos and content
  • creating and sharing game modifications
  • remixing or changing existing content and sharing it.
Teenage girl taking selfie during homework to post on social media platforms

Benefits of Social Media

Social media is a big part of social and creative life for pre-teens and teenagers.

Pre-teens and teenagers use social media to have fun, make and maintain friendships, share and learn interests, explore identities, and develop relationships with family. It’s an extension of their offline and face-to-face interactions. For older teenagers especially, it’s often a key part of how they connect with friends.

Social media can connect pre-teens and teenagers to online global groups based on shared interests like children from particular cultural backgrounds, or they might be sites for commenting on and sharing content about interests such as games, TV series, music, or hobbies.

Your child can get many other benefits from using social media such as:

  • Learning: your child can use social media to better understand, extend, or share what they’re learning at school, either informally or in formal school settings.
Girl watching class on smartphone – studying online at home
  • Hobbies and interests: your child can use social media to follow their interests and learn new ones.
  • Creativity: your child can be creative with profile pages, images, videos, and game modifications.
  • Mental health and wellbeing: connecting with extended family and friends and taking part in local and global online groups can give your child a sense of belonging.

Risks of Social Media

Social media can also pose risks for your child, these risks include:

  • being exposed to inappropriate or upsetting content, like mean aggressive, violent, or sexual comments or images
  • uploading inappropriate content, like embarrassing or provocative photos or videos of themselves or others
  • sharing personal information with strangers, for example, images, date of birth or location
  • cyber bullying
  • being exposed to too much-targeted advertising and marketing
  • being exposed to data breaches, like having their data sold to other organizations or sites.

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