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Setting Social Media Boundaries for Your Kids

Published by: LifeWorks,

What is social media?

Social media takes many forms—Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, online dating apps, and other online communities. Social media allows your child to connect and communicate in a variety of different mediums through an app on their phone, a website, or even a game console.

If you are a parent, carer, or responsible for a child you may be wondering if every child has access to social media? How much access should be given and at what age? And what are reasonable and realistic expectations?

Social media is used by over half the world’s population, and with more reports and research showing how it can negatively affect young people’s mental health and expose them to problems, it’s not surprising that parents want to do more to manage how their children use it and keep them safe.

According to Internet Matters the three most popular ways that children connect online are:

Messaging services. These can be used to send a message, photo, video, or make a voice call to anyone across the world using the internet. The most common apps of this type include Snapchat, Facetime, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Social media. This allows children to share with others, interact and communicate, using their own words, pictures and videos and posting them online. The most popular of these with children are Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter.

Gaming platforms. This allows users to connect via games online such as PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, Fortnite and Roblox. These are currently the most played by young people.

Internet Matters has resources for various online apps and guides for usage. You can find the resources here.

Setting limits on your child’s social media use will not be simple, and finding a way to go about it could feel overwhelming. So take things slowly, and don’t give in to your child’s social media habits just because they tell you that “everyone is doing it.” It’s important to judge whether your child is mature enough to handle and understand the risks, dangers, and consequences of inappropriate social media use. Talk to other parents to help you make decisions, and be clear on rules and expectations. Remember, it is ultimately up to your discretion as a parent or carer to have the final say.

Here are some tips that may help:

Aim for clarity. Be clear which social media sites can be used and how you will keep tabs on this. Obtain all passwords to each application or website. Consider implementing guidelines—for example, telling your children that they have to be in a communal space in the home, such as the lounge or kitchen if they want to go online.

Set rules of usage. You need to have ongoing reviews of your rules, and keep up to date with how your children are using social media. Are they going beyond the boundaries of what is agreed upon? Make it clear that if certain responsibilities, such as schoolwork and household jobs are not being completed in a timely and thorough manner this privilege will be removed until the child is showing responsibility to handle their privilege.

Discuss Risks. Make sure that you and your child are aware of social media risks, and understand what to look out for when using social media apps.

Encourage open conversation with your child about social media. Your child may have more awareness of the risks and dangers of social media than you do. Have an open and honest conversation with your child at a young age regarding experiences on social media. Watch and observe their interactions and become involve in their life online. As you and the child become more familiar with usage and trust develops, it will be easier to enjoy the benefits of social media without running into the dangers.

Enforce the rules. If your child breaks the rules you’ve agreed on, then make sure that you follow through with the consequences you’ve clearly laid out beforehand (e.g., shutting down an account, taking away their mobile phone for a week, etc.). Be fair but strong so that kids know exactly what to expect if they violate your agreement.

Reports show that millions of new users are joining social media every year with people spending about 2½ hours on social media each day – approximately 15% of their waking hours! See more of these astonishing global statistics from DataReportal.

You can find more specific statistics at Statista for data on teens and social media use.

As a parent or carer, you are not going to get it right all the time however, the more facts and awareness you have, the more you will be able to support and guide your kids and teens.

Once you get familiar with the best way to use the features in social media apps, you will feel more confident about giving your child this responsibility. Moderation and monitoring are the key points to remember.

Contact your assistance programme today for additional support and resources.

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