Social Media

What is social media?

Social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, are incredibly popular with young people; even those of a primary age. These types of sites allow young people to be creative online, keep in touch with their friends, share photos and videos, and much more. Many sites have a minimum user age of 13, although some interactive sites, such as LEGO Life and PopJam, are specifically designed for younger children.  

What do I need to know?

The internet can be a fantastic place for children, providing them with wide ranging opportunities. When it comes to using social media, recognising the positives and valuing children's opinions shows that you are interested in their online world, and want to support them with their experiences. Keep in mind that children may use social media differently to adults, therefore being dismissive of online apps, games or trends may put a child off from continuing any conversations. Encouraging children to discuss what they enjoy about social media can be a helpful bridge to talking about safety messages and more difficult issues in the future.  

What are the key risks associated with social media?

Social media is not without its challenges however, and children and young people need to be taught how to recognise and manage the risk factors that they encounter. We have grouped them into the following categories: content, contact and conduct. 

Content

  • Risks Open or Close

    Whilst social media provides a fantastic platform for entertainment, communication and learning, it is not possible to control what other people choose to share, and sometimes upsetting content (posts, comments, photos and videos etc.) may be seen. This could be by accidentally clicking a link, or inadvertently seeing / being sent / or searching for something inappropriate.

    Young people must also remember that content they upload online can be further shared by anyone who sees it, and it is very difficult to ‘take back’ what may be later regretted. Children who create or post inappropriate, offensive or even illegal content on their own or others’ profiles could get into trouble with their school, friends, and even the police, depending on the nature of the material.

  • Advice Open or Close

    Education is the best tool that a child can have. Encourage the children you work with to think before they post online, and consider how they would feel if what they were sharing was made public. Making a plan with children about what they should do if they see something that upsets them, is also a useful course of action e.g. stop, put the device down, tell an adult, use the reporting tools together etc.

    You may find our Parental ControlsSextingPornography, and Video Chat and Webcams hot topics useful for further information. 

Contact

  • Risks Open or Close

    Social media provides opportunities for children and young people to communicate with people outside of their offline friendship circle. This can be a positive thing  - children and young people can go online to find people who are like them, or going through the same experiences, and make friends they wouldn't have otherwise known. However, there is a risk that inappropriate or harmful contact is made by adults online, possibly by pretending to be a child, or using an anonymous profile.

  • Advice Open or Close

    Children's social media accounts need to be protected with privacy settings, and children may need help to put these in place. This will enable them to control who can see the information that they share, and who can contact them too. Remind the children that you work with that friends made online, irrespective of how kind they are, or how much you have in common, are still ‘strangers’ and might not be who they say they are. Remind the children you work with, that a good friend, both on and offline, should never pressure you into doing something that you don’t feel comfortable with. 

    If an online friendship has been formed and that person is asking a child for personal information, to meet up, or send an indecent image, the child should speak to their parent / carer, or another adult they know and trust (such as a member of staff) immediately. If you are worried about the intentions of someone online, or suspect that a child has been contacted by an adult, this can be reported to CEOP.

    You may find our Cyberbullying hot topic and Livestreaming hot topic useful resources for further information.

Conduct

  • Risks Open or Close

    If a child is engaging with social media, the reality is that their online circle of friends may be broader than their offline circle of friends, which can make it more difficult to monitor with whom, and how, they are communicating online. Being kind and respectful online is something everyone should try and do. However, the anonymity of the internet can often make people think that because they can’t be seen, they can act however, or say whatever, they like. 

  • Advice Open or Close

    Let the children you work with know that they can always come to you if anyone upsets them online, and provide immediate reassurance that they have done the right thing by telling you. Encourage children never to retaliate if someone online starts to say or do unkind things; use the reporting/blocking tools available on games/apps/websites to prevent further content coming through; and take screenshots so that evidence is saved. Acting quickly will also help to contain the situation from getting any worse.

    Our How to make a report page, Cyberbullying hot topic, Digital Wellbeing hot topic, and Screen time and healthy balance hot topic can provide further information. 

Advice for children who are under, and over 13 years of age:

Social networking activity

Use this social networking profile to see if young people can identify risky behaviour as well as any positive steps that the user has taken to stay safe whilst using social networking sites.