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Safer Internet Day 2020 - #SocialMediaGate

Ten years ago we had Facebook, it was six years old but had just introduced the like button to individual comments, meaning positive and uplifting statements were given vindication from the masses … but then so was the bullying. Instagram was in its infancy and would take a while to catch on. Flash forward ten years and we’re living in a society struggling to function without social media.

Ten years ago people were wary about letting their children online, social media was relatively new and it certainly wasn’t a play area for kids. Now, roles reversed. There are more children and teens on social media than there are adults.

Ten years ago we had Facebook, now we have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and these developers don’t look to be throwing in the towel any time soon.

Let’s take a look at these platforms through the eyes of a child/teen:

  • Love Instagram! I can talk to my mates for free, I’m trying to have the most followers in my year. Instagram Stories is great for that, I can ask people to follow me and then in 24 hours that message is gone. And if you like a load of random pictures, people just follow you.
  • Snapchat’s my favourite for filters. I like the ones that make me look older, the designer ones. People are meaner on Snapchat, you can send messages and they disappear once you’ve seen them, so people say what they want.
  • TikTok’s the newest one but more and more people are on it now, even my friends little brothers and sisters. I love it because you can make videos, but add filters and voice overs. So it’s like you but better.
  • I love YouTube! Me and my mates have a channel where we film our Fifa wins, the girls all have dance channels. You do get some weird comments sometimes but the more people see it and comment the more followers you get.
  • Facebook? My mum and dad were fine with me going on Facebook, I think it’s because they’re on and they think they can keep an eye on me. But I never go on, it’s boring.

And now through the eyes of an adult/parent/guardian:

  • Instagram scares me. They say you have to be 13 to access it but they have no way of measuring this. If everybody else is on it, how can I tell my child no? I tell my child that they need to keep their profile private but it’s all about likes and followers. I know that people can be mean and hurtful and I worry that my child will suffer at the hands of trolls.
  • Although Snapchat has a no random add policy it still leaves my child open to bullying. Messages and comments are automatically erased after you have seen them so you have no proof when confronting a bully. You can save or screenshot messages but this alerts the other person so in a child’s eyes will only make things worse.
  • I have friends who’s very young children are on TikTok and they follow other people creating similar videos. But I read online that there are scammers targeting these platforms so how do we really know who our children are following?
  • I hate my children being on YouTube. It takes over their lives. You can set up safety mode but even with that I have had them coming to me showing me inappropriate videos that filter through.
  • Facebook has become a haven for nasty content. There are videos on there of animals and children getting hurt or bullied. Where are the regulations for things like this?

Social media is terrifying for parents and carers. In the space of ten years a whole new threat has opened up to our children. There’s the potential for anybody in the world to message them, bully them, groom them and seriously affect their psyche.

So what can we do? In a world where we’re confused as to whether we feel safer having our children playing out on the street, or in their bedroom with access to almost the entire population, what can we do to protect them? Here are a few basic tips that can make a huge difference.

  • Talk to your children. Encourage open conversation, talk about some of the issues they might come across and ask them how they’d deal with them. Explain to them the importance of their own privacy and tell them how much is too much when it comes to sharing personal information.
  • Do your research. Look into every social media platform your child is signed up to. Look at their policies, most platforms have features that can make them safer for children. Privacy settings, blocking features etc. There are hundreds of platforms out there, we have mentioned only a few, so keep an eye on all of the apps your child is downloading.
  • Encourage the use of strong, long passwords. And different passwords for each platform. A good tip for remembering long passwords for kids is for them to use a line out of their favourite song (so long as they don’t have their favourite song posted all over social media).
  • Tell them to keep a check on who follows them/ can see their profiles. Social media platforms are rife with fake accounts. You can usually tell a fake account by looking at the number of followers they have or the amount of interaction they have on their page. This isn’t always the case so a general rule would be, don’t follow anybody unless you are good friends and speak to them regularly.
  • Make sure they know to click links with caution. Social media accounts are the most notorious for being hacked. If the link hasn’t been sent by a trusted source. Don’t click it.

You can find more advice and guidance on making the internet a safer place for your children here: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/blog/save-date-safer-internet-day-2020

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