You may have read my article from last week titled “3 Key Ways To Keep Your Children Safe Online”. If you haven’t read that one yet you can read it here. In that article, I had planned to list ten ways you can keep your children safe online but only discussed three before running out of space – oops! So we decided to turn this into a series of three emails so you can get the detail you need to make a difference. Welcome to part two for three more ways you can keep your children safe online.

1: Open a Joint Social Media Account And Learn Together

One of the key concerns with social media is that despite the minimum age requirement of 13 on most platforms (Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat etc), most children aren’t concerned about their age when they open up a social media account. In fact, when conducted a study in 2014 they found these concerning statistics in relation to youth on social media in Canada:

  • Among students in grades 4 – 6, 32% have a Facebook account and 16% have a Twitter account
  • 18% of 4th-grade students post to social media at least weekly
  • 28% of 5th-grade students post to social media at least weekly
  • 37% of 6th-grade students post to social media at least weekly
  • 48% of students have lied about their age in order to join social networks
  • 90% of students don’t “believe” that strangers “should” have access to their social media, but only 50% have used privacy settings to block strangers
  • 68% of students believe that if a social network has a privacy policy, that means “they will not share my personal information with anyone”

I’d be most surprised if these percentages weren’t much higher again today.

What’s The Big Deal With Young People On Social Media?

When kids open their first social media account at such a young age, sometimes with help from their parents but often without their parents’ knowledge, they are not mentally or emotionally prepared for what will happen there.

The minimum age requirements are there for a reason, being to protect the privacy of young children and give their minds a chance to develop a little more before entering into what can be a scary place for some. When children under thirteen lie about their age in order to use social media they waive their right to privacy and start playing a game without knowing or understanding the rules. Consequently, the chances of something going wrong are very high.

How You Can Work With Your Child

The best way to help your child start off safely on social media is to be right there with them. It’s no different from placing them in a physical place they’ve never been before. You wouldn’t send them off alone in a big city to figure out how to get around safely at the age of ten or even thirteen, so what makes you think they can competently navigate a place with three billion other people by themselves?

When you open up a social media account together, where you set the username and password to access the account, you have the opportunity to show your child which posts are appropriate and which ones are not. You can set and maintain the privacy settings together, and you can decide on who to be “friends” with. You can also make sure your child knows how to block people and that they know it’s okay not to accept every friend request they receive. And that’s just the start!

2: Don’t Allow Internet Access Between 8pm and 6am

There are so many reasons for this tip. In my first article, I mentioned that bad things happen in private. Adding on to this, bad things also happen at night.

Just as you’re more likely to be attacked physically at night than during the day, the same applies online. Predators are very active at night, and kids will often share things online at night (that will get them in trouble at some point) that they just wouldn’t share during the day.

Sleep is also a huge component here. The importance for kids and teens to get enough sleep (generally somewhere between 8-12 hours a day) is massive and has a flow-on affect to most aspects of their life. There is a lot of research that suggests children who get enough sleep are happier, less moody, physically healthier, perform better in school, are able to focus more effectively, and generally display better behavior.

The infamous blue light that comes from screens prevents sleep and should be avoided in the hour before bedtime and all through the night at all costs.

3: Be Approachable

When I talk with parents, I find without fail that most think their children will approach them if they have a problem. However, no matter what survey results I see, the statistics tell a very different story.

The fact is that most children don’t tell their parents if they’re having problems online, usually because they don’t think their parents will respond well. Maybe they think you’ll over-react and make the situation worse. Maybe they think you won’t be able to do anything about it. Or maybe they’re terrified you’ll remove the appendage from their hands, being their mobile device!

It’s hard to help your children with a problem that you don’t know they have, so the number one key here is to let your children know it’s safe to come to you for help. They need to know they won’t get in trouble or be embarrassed if they tell you what’s going on, and that they’ll retain access to their phone or other electronic devices. And while you may think that’s obvious, unless you have this specific conversation with them they’re not likely to agree.

There’s So Much More…

Whilst the job of keeping your children safe online can be successfully achieved it should not be under-estimated. There are complex issues involved and we’re scratching the surface of some of those issues here. If we really want to keep our children safe online we have to delve into this topic to get a much deeper understanding of what it takes to help guide our children safely online.

If you’re looking for a way to learn everything you need to know to keep your children safe online and to keep up with changes in technology that affect your children as they happen, you may find what you’re looking for in the Peaceful Digital Parenting Solution.

I look forward to sharing more insights with you to keep your children safe online in the third and final article in this series. See you there!

** To read Part III, click here

About the Author
Ruth Dearing is the founder of Children and Technology, a public speaker, international best-selling author of “How To Keep Your Children Safe Online…And Put An End To Internet Addiction”, and a mother of two. Her expertise and passion lies in helping parents keep their children safe online.