Social media, by definition, is ‘websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking’.
This can be a wonderful thing; however, it can also be dangerous. It’s relatively new to the world, and this is the first generation of children that grow up in a technology-based western world. We’re all still trying to wade our way through the complications of social media, but what we do know we can pass on to our children, so they don’t have to learn the hard way.
What are the Positives of Social Media for Children?
As adults, there are many positive aspects of using and engaging with social media, and for children, they aren’t much different. Being able to stay connected with family and friends can be a brilliant thing, especially now life can be much more spread out than before. Social media is also a useful tool for communicating with other students, lecturers and gaining resource material for learning. From a social point of view, people can meet other people with similar interests, and now the days of being confined to classroom friends no longer exist. This can be a very positive thing if children feel lonely or feel like they don’t fit in with a ‘social norm’.
What are the Negatives of Social Media?
Social media does pose some very serious risks for everyone partaking, but children are particularly vulnerable. Using their real photos and names could put themselves in an undesirable or dangerous position, as the internet is filled with information that links to further information. Couple this with their school name and the town where they live, visible on their profile, and it wouldn’t be hard to find their location or further personal information. Unfortunately, this is a risk we all take putting our information out so publicly on the world wide web, but children can be more susceptible to someone using that information against them. This leads on to the danger of children talking to people who might not be who they say they are, which can pose a very serious threat.
Cyberbullying is another issue that needs to be considered. Bullying online can happen from those your children know, others they don’t know, or even others they know that are disguised as people they don’t know. While a minefield, this is a serious problem and can be very disturbing and damaging to a child.
And finally, inappropriate content could be an issue. Most social media platforms have an age restriction, but no way to enforce it, meaning that any child can be exposed to anything that may be on the internet.
What can Parents do to Educate Children on Social Media?
Social media is an extension of real life, so, general life lessons can be applied here. Teaching your child to be polite and not to say mean things to other people online is just as crucial as that behaviour face to face.
Unlike blurting things out, we all get a chance to really think about what we are typing before we hit that send button, and for children that should be stressed upon. Letting people know where you are leaves you open and vulnerable. This includes children letting their friends know they are on holiday with the family and alerting everyone on their social media that no one is at home.
What is said on the internet has a very hard time disappearing. Reminding your children that whatever they post on the internet could be around for the rest of their life should encourage them to think before they post. Ask them to ask themselves before they post if they would mind a relative, or teacher seeing it, to help put a post into perspective before it’s published.
Teach children about privacy settings. Social media has caught up with the concerns of privacy and now offer a wide range of customisable settings to ensure you are only sharing the information you want to share and nothing else. Much like with real life, educate children on the dangers of accepting strangers as friends on social media.
What can Teachers do to Educate Children on Social Media?
Much the same as parents, teachers can educate children on the dangers of social media, and from a more practical point, teach them how to use privacy settings. Role play might also be beneficial in the classroom to emphasise how written down words still hurt and how people might not be who they say they are.
Regardless of which school your child is attending, it’s important to keep your children safe, and teach them about both the positives and negatives of social media. At St Peter’s Preparatory private school, Devon, we think it is extremely important to keep up to date with real life changes so children can be educated about them.