Understanding Social Media with Your Child
Many families are concerned about the role of social media in children’s lives and this is perfectly natural. Depending on your own personal use of social media platforms, your concerns may be around screen time, online content, or the potential for your child to become vulnerable in a cyber environment.
Social media is an integral part of modern life and part of the future world of your children. The best thing you can do to support them is become informed yourself. This will allow you to keep the conversation open and set boundaries around their online activity that you are both comfortable with.
Let’s take a look at some of the common platforms your children may wish to use and some of the benefits and risks associated with them
Facebook is a social media platform designed to connect families, friends and peers. To hold an account, you must be 13 years of age. There are benefits to Facebook for young people, particularly the sharing aspects, which create a sense of belonging and connection. Sharing photos, memories, conversations and news with family and friends is a great way to stay in touch and develop relationships with people outside your immediate family.
The downfalls of Facebook lie in the lack of control individuals have over information sharing. For example, information or photographs of your child or teenager can be uploaded and shared by peers without their consent. This can be upsetting for young people. Facebook is also widely accessible and does hold the potential for your child to become friends with, or connected to people outside of their immediate circle. Negotiating relationships in a cyber environment is a really important skill for your child to learn, and with the right guidance, they can become confident users of social media platforms such as this.
Instagram offers young people the opportunity to connect by sharing images. This can be a really creative forum for connection, especially if you have a budding photographer or artist in the family. However, the image sharing platform can encourage an obsession with image-based communications, including selfies, and this is not always a healthy thing. If your child likes to communicate visually, spend some time getting to know Instagram with them. Instagram allows your child to follow other artists and life stories, so get to know where their interests lie and who they would like to follow.
Where Facebook is social and Instagram is image based, Twitter operates around short messages of up to 140 characters. Twitter attracts a range of interest groups and can be a great forum for social commentary, politics, art and culture. The use of text-based communications can be great for honing language skills and expression. As with all social media, Twitter can attract negative attention and this will depend on the people your child is following or those that follow them.
If you’d like to learn more about social media in the lives of young people, there are online forums you can join yourself. Discussion amongst family is always beneficial as is sharing conversation with your children.