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Social Media and Young People
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A New Generation of Socialisation Through Social Media
According to a report published by OfCom (UK), 21% of 8 – 11 year olds have a social media profile, rapidly increasing to 71% of 12 – 15 year olds. A staggering 74% of 8 – 15 year olds use You Tube.
Have a look at this interesting snapshot:
As the internet has become an ever-expanding part of our lives, so has social media. We are now raising and caring for children who have never experienced life without it, and we’re starting to understand the impact that this can have on them and their development.
Social media can be a wonderful platform and it has many benefits. But, like everything, it also has its drawbacks. This is posing new problems to parents. How do you parent a child on social media? They have access to many different platforms, hundreds and thousands of people that they may never know, and they also know how to navigate social media better than some adults.
So, what do we do about this? Firstly, children should be allowed to use gaming and social media. However, like with everything in life, they need to learn and be guided on how to use it in a safe and effective manner.
Social Media: When Things Go Right
When things go right with social media, children can have access to a depth of information, and learn about different cultures, organisations and topics. It also means that they can stay in contact with their friends and have a more proactive way of sharing their story with others.
Adults As The Role Model
As with many aspects of parenting, adults can be effective role models. We can shape the way a child uses social media by adopting that approach ourselves. It stands to reason that if we are constantly on our phones, the children in our care will want to do the same. If you are promoting ‘Non-Screen-Time’ in your household, all members of your household should follow the rule. However, this will leave you with a slot of time to do something together, as a family, such as watch a movie or play a game, or go outside.
If you do need to use your phone for an important reason, for example, contacting a family member to organise child-care, explain this to your child so that they can understand the reason.
Social Media: When Things Go Wrong
Keeping your child safe: Do you remember when the internet was just a slow, dial-up tone and it took forever to do anything? That definitely nurtured the skill of patience! The main concerns then were that children understood road safety and that they knew not to talk to strangers.
A child’s social interactions would have included friends at school, family/friends who would visit your house, or perhaps another family that you met on holiday. These interactions were quite spread out and under your control. You could manage these interactions, and educate them about strangers, keeping safe and not wandering off.
How times have changed! With social media today, children are being taught to dress differently and speak differently, the end result being that they can look and sound much older than their young years. Also, they have access to billions of people – people that you do not know. And you don’t have the ability to manage these kinds of social interactions in the same way.
When a child is socially interacting in person, they get instant feedback from the other person. They can detect different facial expressions, or changes in body language and tone of voice. However, on social media, the only feedback they get is in written format which can easily be misinterpreted if not written correctly. A lot of Tweens are still learning about the complex world of language - they’re still learning how to write in an appropriate manner.
Your Tween will be having a lot more exposure to situations that you are not aware of.
Here are your important Awareness-Keys:
- Who your child is interacting with;
- How they are interacting with them;
- What is being asked of them;
- What they are asking of the other person.
As awful as it is, we cannot deny that there are people using social media inappropriately and that this could jeopardise the safety of a child. These people are very clever. They can present themselves with different profile pictures, and they can now use software to alter their voice so that they sound younger. And they can ask to meet up with children.
How do you parent that? This is where Parental Controls come in. But, for us, the first question to ask is: can your child socially interact appropriately with other human beings, physically? If your child: has a good friendship group; is able to interact well, socially at school and outside of school in clubs; make good choices where friendships aren’t going well, then they can be trusted to talk to their friends online. If they have not developed this skill, time should be taken to nurture it before they are given access to talking to people online, either via written chats or verbally. This will give children the opportunity to learn healthy, appropriate social interactions in the physical world. Then, when it comes to talking to people online, they will be able to call on that bank of physical, social knowledge to assess different situations. For example, they may say, “hang on, that doesn’t sound right. If that happened to me in the playground, I think that would make me really upset.”
BULLYING on Social Media
Unfortunately, bullying on social media is on the rise. The way that children bully each other on social media is exceptionally clever. How do you protect your child from on-line bullying? First of all, parents can contact other parents to say, “this has happened over social media, please be aware.” You can explain what you are doing with your Tween to help educate them on why this is not OK.
If the bullying persists and continues, then we delete accounts. This can either be to protect the child being bullied or to stop a child who is doing the bullying. If a child is in the playground and acting in an inappropriate way, they can be removed from the situation – some form of physical action would take place. It is no different on-line.
It is so important for children to get instant feedback on what is okay and what is not okay on social media.
If a child is being bullied, they also need to learn when to respond to a comment and when not to. This means that the child needs to be able to drop the keys. Imagine 2 people throwing a bunch of keys between them. If, at some point, someone puts their hands behind their back, the keys will fall to the ground and the ‘conversation’ will stop. They also need to feel comfortable enough to go to an adult and say, “this comment has been made and I don’t know how to respond to it.”
On a final note: IT’S ALWAYS OKAY TO CHECK YOUR CHILD’S PHONE!
Not only do children have access to a wealth of information, they also have access to numerous social media accounts. There is You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok – to name a few. This is fantastic for businesses. But if a child has many different forms of social media, this means that they also have access to many different people, giving you more to monitor and parent.
The answer is simple: limit the number of social media accounts that your child has access to, to one. You can also put in ‘Graded Boundaries’. So, when they are just beginning to use social media, they are not allowed to show any photos of themselves. Then, as they are progressing, they can show their hands, and perhaps as they get older, you can then give them permission to put their face on social media content. By monitoring the use in this way, you can teach your child what they can and can’t do, and build up mutual trust that they will use it appropriately.
Social Media And Self-Esteem
The Like Button: It’s very interesting to hear comments from the person who created the ‘LIKE’ button. When it was created, it was to show, instantly, that something was good. It was meant to be quick and easy. They did not foresee the effect that it would have on children’s self-esteem.
When a child is using the LIKE button for their self-esteem: As a parent/guardian, it’s important to educate children on the difference between the number of ‘likes’ they receive and who they are as a person. One does not define the other.
In this instance, it is absolutely OK to parent content on social media. If a child is allowed free-reign on what they post, without guidance, they may not get the right feedback on the content. Social media promotes that the more ‘likes’ you get, the more popular you are, the more people like you, and the more people want to spend time with you. This is really skewed. As adults, we know that a post can have hundreds and thousands of ‘likes’ from complete strangers, BUT, if you were to call on even one of those strangers for help, they wouldn’t have a clue who you were.
This gives the child the wrong feedback, and the wrong base on which to build their self-esteem. This is why we promote physical, social interaction with other children first. Children can then learn about who they are as a person, develop their self-identity, and then they can integrate social media into their lives in a more balanced, healthy way.
Social Media Isn’t The Problem – But Not Parenting It Can Be
It makes us sound old (haha!) but ‘back in the day’ we would have been able to send children out into the garden/street to play with their friends, and we would have been able to keep an eye on them, to ensure that play was fair and kind.
Today, you now have to take the time, each day, to parent social media. This means that you do need to sit down with your child - and their phone - go through the content, and have a conversation about social media:
- “I really like that post you did.”
- “I don’t agree with this post because…xyz” (and explain why you don’t).
- “Oh, that’s an interesting comment by that person. Do you know this person, or is this person a stranger?” If they are a stranger… “Why did you start to have a conversation with them?”
This will need to be part of your daily routine with your children, if you are to allow them to use social media safely and appropriately.
This also applies to gaming. If they are gaming, and they are talking to people via microphones, stay tuned to the language that they’re using. Are they starting to shout at the TV screen? Would you allow them to stand in the playground and shout at another child because they weren’t doing the ‘right’ thing? Are they starting to use swear words, but only during gaming? Would you allow your child, out in the playground, to swear at another child because they weren’t doing the ‘right’ thing?
When you start to develop this awareness and help your child to understand that, whether it’s on social media and you have the protection of being behind a screen, or you are physically interacting with another human being, there are behaviours that support each other and there are behaviours that bring each other down.
This is just as important as teaching your child to stop at the kerb and look left and right before crossing a road.
Let’s all teach the children in our care to use this platform wisely and safely.
There is such a wealth of information available on-line today: useful hints, inspiring quotes, interesting tips and educational tools. But, sometimes, that life-changing sentence you read can be lost as you click on the next link. So, we wanted to create this easy-to-use space for you, so that you can quickly find that lost sentence in our past blogs.