social-media-and-our-kids
education, motherhood, Parenting

Social Media And Our Kids – Are We Ready?

My kids are tech kids. They love watching the TV, iPads, YouTube and generally anything screen related. I don’t object to them using technology at all, in fact I embrace it. They have to understand it and know how to use it. But when it comes to social media and our kids, should we be cautious? At what age should we start to worry, or be concerned, or limit their screen time? Whether we like it or not, their future will revolve around technology.

It’s that last bit that scares me.

I recently attended a talk organized by our school. The talk was by social media law expert, Emma Sadlier of The Digital Law Company.

I attended the talk more as a mommy blogger, rather than as a parent. I was interested to hear a professional talk on the subject. At the back of my mind I always tell myself that my girls are still young, I don’t have to worry too much about all the bad stuff on the net, yet.

I mean, I watch them watch YouTube, right? I put the PG rating setting on so they’ll be okay, right? I’m a blogger, I run a parenting blog. I know social media, I will be able to protect them when the time comes, right?

Wrong!

I was shocked by the scary, very real, very ‘people next door’ cases that Emma referenced in her talk.  As the talk was aimed at parents of teenagers, most of the stories she told were related to that age group. She highlighted the fact that kids are kids, they don’t understand the far-reaching repercussions of what they are doing online. The fact that their actions online now can actually haunt them for the rest of their lives. Such is the reality of our modern tech world where nothing is ever forgotten.

I’m not going to go into the details of her talk but if you ever get the chance to hear her talk, you really will be doing yourself a favour!

It got me thinking though, if we are living in a digital age where a two-year-old knows how to operate a smart phone better than some pensioners, then what is the right age for us as their parents to start worrying about protecting them from ‘the bad stuff’ online?

When In Doubt, Ask!

I decided to ask the professionals. I made contact with Sarah Hoffman of the Digital Law Company, one of Emma’s colleagues. She agreed to let me pick her brain with some questions about social media and our kids that relate specifically to younger children. I find there is quite a lot of information available for older children and teenagers, but I want to specifically consider those children under the age of ten-years-old.

Our discussion was more of an actual conversation rather than a question and answer session so here are the key messages I want to share that I think all parents of small children need to keep in mind with regards to screen time, social media and our protecting our children online.

Privacy

We all love sharing pictures of our kids on social media. I think that something a lot of us don’t realise though is how social media affects our parenting. One thing we need to keep in mind when it comes to social media and our kids is that the more private you are, the more right you have to privacy. If you share pictures of your children on social media constantly, then you can’t be offended or upset about a lack of privacy.

As an example, we can refer to two former Miss South Africa ladies who are both moms  and are both very much still in the spotlight on social media. Lea-Ann Liebenberg documents her children’s lives on her social media accounts. In contrast, Vanessa Carreira only shows her children in silhouette, never their faces. Now I am not judging either of these ladies, but they have both taken very different approaches to privacy.

I think the point is that as parents we need to think about how we are responsible for our children’s privacy. They are too young to make that decision for themselves so it is up to us to protect their privacy to the degree that we are comfortable with, whilst at the same time, not losing sight of the fact that it is their life.

Screen Time

As parents, we can almost all admit to plonking our kids down with the iPad when we need five minutes, or ten minutes … or half an hour. Whilst we do feel a twinge of guilt, we usually just push that guilt aside in order to achieve whatever task we deem important in that moment. And it works.

Interesting results from a poll I ran on Instagram:

So what Constitutes Excessive Screen Time?

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) are the leaders in research when it comes to screen time.

According to the AAP, children over the age of two years old, and preschoolers should not have more than two hours of screen time per day.

*Here are a few of the health issues that could affect children who indulge in excessive screen time:

  • obesity
  • sleeping problems (caused by the blue light emitted by all electronic screens)
  • concentration issues
  • fine motor skill development delays
  • exposure to cyber-bullying
  • exposure to inappropriate content on the internet

Let’s remember that it’s okay to not entertain our kids all the time. Don’t be afraid to let them be bored!

Bullying

Bullying impacts all of us at some point in our lives. Cyber-bullying is one of the biggest problems our society faces today. I asked Sarah what we as parents can do if we feel that our children have been a victim of cyber-bullying. Her advice was the following:

  • Take screenshots of the bullying as evidence
  • Report the problem to the school (if applicable)
  • Block the bully on the social media channels they are operating on.
  • Remove yourself/your child from the Whatsapp group where a lot of this bullying seems to happen.
  • Confront the bully or their parents if the bullying takes the form of a criminal offence.

The most horrific forms of online bullying have been reported on social media networks that a lot of us parents haven’t even heard of. Apps such as Ooh.me, Yik Yak and even Musical.ly. They all make use of internet anonymity although these apply more to children over the age of 10.

Tools To Protect Our Children Online

The good news is that there are a number of software programs and apps for parents to monitor social media use. In fact there are many different ways to help keep our children safe when they are online.  Sarah recommended the following:

There are many more products out there, but these are the ones that Sarah specifically referenced.

I recently heard about another internet security product that sounds amazing, although I haven’t yet tried it myself, that is Lucid View. Another South African manufactured product, it is created by a dad in an effort to serve the purposes of a whole family, using clean internet, and keeping children safe.  Their product claims to be able to cut the internet to certain apps at certain times of the day. I think this sounds awesome! I will personally be looking into this product. It sounds very exciting.

What Does The Future Hold?

After reading all that, I’m quite sure many of you want to remove your entire profiles from social media and hope that it all just goes away. Sadly, I don’t believe that it ever will. The way I see it, the only way to really protect our children when it comes to online safety is to educate them and ourselves.

Here are a few ways to do that, most of which are recommended by the Digital Law Company:

  1. Lay the ground rules right from the beginning when it comes to screen time, what social media networks they can be on, and how much access you expect to have to their devices.
  2. Location services – TURN OFF LOCATION SERVICES on all apps.
  3. Learn the apps the kids are using. You don’t have to use them, but you do need to know what they are about so that you can help your kids to stay safe.
  4. Create an open door policy. When (not if, but when) your children come across inappropriate content, they need to know that they can come to you and  you won’t freak out at them.
  5. When the time comes for your children to have a phone, make use of a ‘SmartPhone’ contract between you and them so that everyone knows what is expected of each other. The Digital Law company have an example available on their blog, you can access it by clicking here.
  6. Model Good Phone Behaviour. I can’t stress this enough. If our children learn by example in all other aspects of their lives, then they will also model us in the way we use our phones. We need to show them what is appropriate, what is not, what is excessive and when it’s time to put the phones down.
  7. As parents, apply your privacy settings to your social media profiles.

In my personal opinion, one of the most important things we need to do is to teach our children. Teach them what is right and what is wrong. Teach your daughters to say, “No” when asked to send pictures of themselves. And please, teach your sons that it is wrong to ask!

How Does This Apply To Our Everyday Life?

As a mommy blogger I have chosen the more extreme version of privacy. This is my choice, and I’m very glad that I made it. This doesn’t mean I don’t get jealous that I can’t show off my beautiful daughters on my blog. However, it’s a choice we as their parents made. The girls do get upset because I won’t let them do unboxing videos, and why can’t they be on the blog, why can’t they be on YouTube? They don’t get it. But that’s okay, I can live with that. I am their mom and at this age they don’t know what their future will hold. It is up to me to make these decisions for them. .

Just as it is our responsibility to teach our children about manners, education, diet, religion, and all the other aspects that make up our society, this also applies to social media and our kids. It is up to us to educate them and guide them down the right path.

Thank you to Sarah for taking the time to help me with this post.

* This list is a combined list from a number of different sources, not only the AAP.

Social-media-are-we-ready


Shank You Very Much

 

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19 thoughts on “Social Media And Our Kids – Are We Ready?”

  1. Informative post. I think it is a personal family choice. Each parent must decide what is on their social media and what not. This has me thinking about use of pics on social of our kids. It’s something I weigh up a lot (since I started my blog Instagram) and will continue to factor in new thoughts and research. Great post! Will be thinking further about this.

  2. Great post with lots to think about. It is a very fine line between allowing kids access to technology and setting boundaries. For me, the most important thing to note is Model Good Phone Behaviour. Just like you said. We need to first understand the implications properly before we can teach them. #sabloggerscafe

  3. I love this post. I also don’t post pictures of my kids faces on my social media links or blog. I too feel, only sometimes though, that I want to post a cute pic of them BUT then I remember why I don’t want to put my kids out there on social media. I choose NOT to. When they are older, they can put themselves out there. For now, I am the parent and this is what Mama deems best. By the way, Dudie geta very pissed that I never use photos of him and now he just photo bombs my pics🤣 But then Dude explains, your mom wants to take a pic please get out of the way 🤣🤣🤣
    Thanks for the tips.

  4. I am absolutely PETRIFIED of this with my children one day Carls. Already have had a bad experience of it with my 13 year old nephew and it horrified me!

  5. This is really something scary – it’s also probably why I’ve gone off social media on most weekends to just keep some things private just for me. Although like you said this is the life we chose, not everyone needs to know about every little thing that happens… not for me anyway. It helps me feel like some things are just for us. Definitely thinking about this some more!

  6. Very informative post. I must admit…I voted no on your poll. lol. I have 3 kids and I just can’t juggle them all…. The behaviour however does become addictive and I just live in hope that I can correct it.

    That being said.,…My siblings and I were watching TV and playing computer games/tv games 24/7 when we were kids in the 80’s…..so a part of me is like…so what..they watch too much tv. I turned out ok?

    Kids on the blog….I don’t share them on the blog, but I actually did recently, though it was a pic from well over a year ago…almost 2. I will never check in anywhere with my kids…..I will share the occasional picture, nn my instagram…..once in a blue moon. We don’t have to justify our choices I guess…we all do what we think is best for our kids.

  7. Thought provoking post. I think it has to be an on-going dialogue between the parent blogger and the child. Things the child was okay about when they were smaller may become less acceptable to them as they grow older. The Tubblet, who is 14, doesn’t mind the odd story but doesn’t want her face shown. As a parent, I have to respect that and allow her that agency. I can’t really talk to her about online privacy if I’m splashing her photo all over the place against her wishes

  8. That night was indeed an eye opener! We both walked out of there both shocked and a little worried! Thank you for this further investigation! Thank you for sharing this! I know that night changed my whole outlook on things completely! ❤️

  9. My kids are tech savvy too but they don’t have access to any social media platforms. Just the other day the school posted in their newsletter that parents need to be vigilant of what is happening on their kids’ social media account – who their friends are, the settings and who they friends with. It came to light that some of the kids had open accounts and befriended adult males. Scary to say the least. I don’t post my kids’ faces on my open Instagram account – I do have a private account whereby only close family and friends need to request acceptance. Thanks for sharing this very informative post #dreamteam

  10. I knew most of this but I still learned more from reading your post! I loved reading it too because every now and then even knowing what we know, we get comfortable and a post like this reminds us to be vigilant and conscious with our choices. I do occasionally share my kids on my Instagram and blog that are both public and sometimes I question my choice. Even though they are older and they both know and give me permission, neither of them is on social media themselves so it is all on me to be conscious of what I’m sharing on my social media.
    Both of my boys are on YouTube but they use mine and their dad’s accounts. Neither has their own so we also get notified when a comment is made by one of them, which happens occasionally. Neither boy has expressed wanting their own accounts (yet) but their dad and I take a lot of care to educate them with online safety.
    My youngest plays Minecraft on the computer and does the multiplayer. He does come across some mean people but like you said about having an open door policy, he comes to me whenever someone is mean to him. I monitor the situation but I never thought to screen shot the messages he gets. I like this idea and will start using it from now on. Thanks so much for all of this info! #GlobalBlogging

  11. We had a talk at my children’s school and I was shocked at some of the things we were told. I do allow my children plenty of screen time as I want them to be competent and confident with technology as well as fit in with their friends. They do not yet have social media accounts but I do feature them on mine and will continue to do so if they allow me. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

  12. Really interesting post. My 7yo decided at Christmas he didn’t want to have his photos on the blog or social media anymore. I’m sad about that because my blog is meant to be a record he can look back on in future. But it’s his choice. Hes asked for a mobile phone (so he can play with filters on snapchat!). My phone has stickers on the camera so he’s happy enough with that as I don’t plan for him to have a phone til secondary school and he won’t be having social media until he’s the correct age. His school do some good talks about internet safety etc, so I’m hoping he’s fairly savvy by the time he gets to the correct age.

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