I like to think I’m pretty switched on when it comes to social media and all things online.
I spend a lot of time online and know my way round the interwebs. I use a range of social media platforms and I’m no stranger to apps. I felt I was in a good place to assist and educate my three children to the pros and cons of all the digital world has to offer – when the time came.
Well it appears that time is now.
Well actually it all started a couple of years ago when my then 9 year old son informed me that everyone in his class had multiple mobile devices (tablet, iPod and iPad). That’s right apparently these kids not only had an iPad some had an iPod or tablet as well. How their parents afforded to kit these nine year old’s up with so many devices was beyond me, but my son sweared it was true. Now if they had them why couldn’t he? Well firstly they are bloody expensive and kids are pretty clumsy, so there was no way I was buying a $500 iPad for a nine year old. Grandma and Grandad came to the rescue and gifted all three of my kids with a budget tablet.
Of course once my son had this tablet he wanted to be a part of everything his friends were doing – KiK and Instagram were the main ones. I reluctantly let him try KiK (which I later got rid of) and eventually gave into Instagram. But we had some ground rules:
- you must be a friend/contact of me (mum)
- you only ever connect/talk with people you know in real life
- never give out or post images of personal information
- Respect the privacy of others. Never post a picture of anything or anyone without there permission (this one was mainly for me so I didn’t have pictures of me in my pjs on his instagram account)
- Transparency. I will randomly check his friends and ask who anyone unfamiliar is
- Always tell me if you see something you don’t think is right (like cyberbullying)
There were other terms but these were the main ones. My son accepted all our moderation and I think it made him feel that we wanted to be involved. He is heavily moderating in his online activities and was somewhat of an example to the younger two kids (oh the joys of being the experimental oldest child). My oldest son is now 11 and it’s difficult to pull him away from his iPod or Xbox or whatever device he is on.
When I think of social media and kids two words spring to mind, responsibility and trust – for both the parent and the child.
Which brings me to my daughter, I have told my kids that I won’t even consider things like Instagram until they are ten. Even though the age for most of these social media apps is 13 there seems to be so much activity and pressure amongst kids much (much) younger. I know many of my daughters friends have Instagram and she has been putting pressure on me for a long while to use it. But I stuck to my guns and said that when she was ten I would consider it (she is nine).
So a little story….one day a few weeks back my daughter was helping my husband with some cleaning in the shed. She hurt her hand, it wasn’t a bad injury but I recall her coming and telling me that she had hurt her hand and then she found a wrist splint we had (it was actually one I had reviewed, you can read the review here if you’re interested) and put it on – which I thought was slight overkill but it made her feel better.
Later I noticed her taking a photo of her hand in the splint with her tablet. I thought it odd but nothing to weird as my daughter can take selfies for over an hour and is a bit of a photographer – of random things. That night after putting the kids to bed the phone rings, it’s a worried relative asking how my daughters broken arm is?? Ok, this is weird. How did they even know she had hurt her wrist? Such and such just called me because she saw the picture on Instagram. What?? my daughter didn’t have Instagram, had she posted it to her brothers account?
I won’t go into the details of what immediately followed that phone call but I found out the next day that my daughter had not one but two Instagram accounts that she had set up by herself with made-up email addresses. I have since taken control of one of the accounts and deleted the other. I have also had some heart to heart conversations about responsibility and trust with my daughter.
I don’t want to be the baddy because I remember all to well what it’s like when your friends (seem) to be doing things you aren’t. But I think the whole ‘fractured arm’ incident was a good lesson for my daughter in the power and implications of social media.
Intel Security have released some interesting research around teens and tweens in the Teens , Tweens and Technology Study 2015. Some key points from the research include:
- Parental trust up – fewer parents looking to monitor their child’s devices (75% vs 91% in 2014) – but nearly half of parents worrying more due to increased mobile device use
- 2 in 5 children now creating fake profiles to hide online behaviour (up from 13% in 2014)
- 1 in 5 children would still meet a stranger they had met online
- How much personal information teens and tweens are sharing is now the biggest online fear for both parents and children – replacing cyberbullying this year
- 77% of teens worried about cyber criminals targeting them
- Digital future: 46% of teens and tweens interested in learning code development for app and website building, with 43% looking to the industry for a future career
The online security of your kids is a tricky and often topical point. Since the Instagram incident with my daughter she has shown much more maturity with online and social media. I’m actually glad it happened as I now feel their is a lot more trust in our relationship.