How can we protect young children from the dangers of social media?

    Boy on mobile phone
    Credit: iStock

    Gareth Jones, head of St Andrew’s Prep School in Eastbourne, offers his advice on keeping children safe on social media

    Move over millennials; it’s time to make way for the Alpha children, born after 2010, who will grow up with iPads in hand and never live without a smartphone and the ability to transfer a thought online in seconds. Alphas have the power to control their individual lives in a way that no generation has before.

    READ MORE: Five ways to support your child’s mental health

    Why is it that young people use social media as their main form of communication – rather than face-to-face dialogue – in the belief that ‘group chat’ is more profitable? On the contrary, it is more superficial with potential for realities to be distorted and misinterpreted. So how can we educate our children and keep them safe online?

    1. Firstly, we need to educate ourselves. Finding out about new social media platforms, privacy settings, parental controls and the latest online scams will help us help them – there are plenty of tips online, and Parent Zone is a good starting point.
    2. Understand the legal age limits for different social media sites. Popular sites are 13+, while some (eg. Whatsapp) is 16+. These restrictions are there for a reason and once your child does have an account, keep an open line of communication as this keeps things honest and make it easier to establish ground rules such as no phones at the table or in the bedroom at night. The important thing is to model the same behaviour as adults.
    3. Ultimately, ensure your child knows you care but is not being spied upon. As with most good parenting skills, talking about it is the best way to help our children stay safe online.

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