Most social media sites are not designed to be used by children under the age of 13. However we know that by the end of primary school, lots of children will be asking to access these apps/sites, and research shows that a large number of children have created at least one social media profile before they are at the correct age (usually 13) to do so.
Before young people start using social media, it is important that they are equipped with the skills to stay safe online and to use these services responsibly. If you have a child under the age of 13 who is interested in, or already using, social media, here are some top tips for you. Maintaining an open and honest dialogue with your children, and showing interest in their online activities, will help them feel more comfortable coming to you when they need help.
- Ask your child what their favourite apps are and find out the recommended age for them. Talk to your child about why age limits are important - e.g. because these sites/games are used by adults too, because users can contact each other, because of the content that can be shared etc.. If your child is using social media already, add them as a friend to your profiles to help support them.
- Model responsible social media use by creating a family account to be used together until your child is old enough. This may also encourage your child not to create an account that you are not aware of, and give you the peace of mind that they are learning to use it appropriately.
- Ensure that your child knows what personal information is, and what is ok to share / not share online. E.g. using a nickname rather than a real name where possible.
- Establish your behaviour and conduct expectations as early as possible - e.g. 'We will have a shared password,' 'I will support you in adding friends to your account and monitor any friend requests...' etc. This could be done as part of a family agreement.
- Sit down together and make sure that you all know how to use the security tools that are provided. There are many ways in which a social media profile can remain private to prevent your child from giving out personal information to strangers. Look for the blocking and reporting features too and understand how they work.
Our SMART cartoons provide great safety tips for children aged 8-11, and they may also enjoy exploring our primary pages.