Most parents are concerned about their child’s safety online but are uncertain of what precautions to take. Many feel at a loss when their child appears more technologically savvy than themselves. However despite their upbringing, evidence implies that children do not consider their safety a high priority, whilst online. Therefore they are at high risk of identity theft, online attacks and cyber bullying. Parents should avoid enforcing restrictions that offer children little freedom, as it is strong possibility they may learn to overcome these. They need to be guided as to how and where to go for help and support regarding online bullying. If they know that they should not be using the sites – then it is more than likely that they will not tell you or the parents as the fear of having their life line removed etc.
Childnet have created a new resource with advice and guidance for parents and carers on how they can support children and young people online. The Supporting Young People online resource has great ideas on how to start a conversation with children, a checklist of next steps, and Top Tips section for younger children and for teens. The resource can be accessed and downloaded on the Childnet website in 11 languages apart from English including Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Polish, Punjabi, Somali, Spansih, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Welsh.
Some Top Tips – Parents and Guardians
What age should my children be before I let them use Instagram, Facebook, and other social media services?
How old your child should be before he or she starts using social media with your permission is really up to you. Most social media websites and apps require that children be 13 to sign up. Despite what many think, this isn't to limit kids' exposure to inappropriate content but because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents companies from collecting certain information from kids under 13. Rather than create an environment that protects kids from data tracking, Facebook and other websites and apps choose to restrict access to those under 13.
Aside from this, 13 is generally the age when kids start developing a broader understanding of the world around them and, along with that, a better sense of what's appropriate to share online. As young teens, kids also are developing a desire to control more of their activities as well as the maturity to handle that control.
If your child is expressing interest in joining a social network, discuss the pros and cons and do your own research so you fully understand the implications of joining a particular network. If you want your child to wait to sign up, consider pointing him or her toward more age-appropriate sites such as Yoursphere or Fanlala. Kuddle is also a quality Instagram substitute. It's also possible you can rally your childrens friends' parents to restrict their children from Facebook, so you won't get that "but everyone is on it!" argument.
If your child does end up joining a social network -- whether she's 10 or 16 -- here are some ground rules that work for many parents:
Use privacy settings. Privacy settings aren't foolproof, but they can be helpful. Take the time to learn how privacy settings work on your childs' favorite sites and apps, and teach your children how to control the information they make public or private. Encourage them to check privacy settings regularly, since sites' policies often change.
Tell your children to think before they post. Remind them that everything can be seen by a vast, invisible audience (otherwise known as friends-of-friends-of-friends), and, once something's online, it's hard to take back.
Be a friend and follower. Each family will have different rules, but, especially for younger children, it's a good idea for parents to have access to their childs' pages, at least at first, to be sure that what's being posted is appropriate. Parents can help keep their children from doing something they'll regret later.
Keep private information private. Don't share your home address or other sensitive information online.
Be respectful of others. Children may use social media to act out because they feel anonymous and that their actions are consequence-free. Make sure they understand that the Internet is a giant community that works best when everyone respects each other.
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