Childhood is an important time for healthy development, learning and establishing the foundations for future wellbeing. Engaging with various forms of social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection and even technical skills. Social media offers multiple daily opportunities for connecting with friends, classmates and people with shared interests.
A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring on the internet or mobile devices. Due to limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents can also be at risk as they navigate and experiment with social media platforms.
Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviours, such as bullying, clique-forming and sexual experimentation that have introduced problems such as cyberbullying, privacy issues or ‘sexting.’ Other problems that merit awareness include internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation.
Social media platforms can also pose other risks for your child, which may include:
- Being exposed to inappropriate or upsetting content like mean, aggressive, violent or sexual comments or images.
- Uploading inappropriate content such as embarrassing or provocative photos or videos of themselves or others.
- Sharing personal information with strangers.
- Exposure to too much advertising and marketing.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a youth mental health expert argues that children under 12 should be banned from using social media. “It is as simple as that… they (primary school aged children) simply do not have the neurological maturity to manage their digital footprint”.
However, there are still so many positives from utilising social media channels and platforms, including:
- Digital media literacy: exploring and experimenting on social media can help your child build knowledge and skills to enjoy online activities and avoid online risks.
- Collaborative learning: your child can use social media to share educational content, either informally or in formal school settings.
- Creativity: your child can be creative with profile pages, photos, video and in-app features.
- Mental health and wellbeing: connecting with extended family and friends especially in 2020 with the challenges of COVID-19 and taking part in local and global online communities can give your child a sense of connection and belonging.
Talking about social media use with your child is the best way to protect them and ensure your child’s internet safety. Talking gives you the opportunity to help your child:
- Work out how they want to behave and be treated by other people online.
- Understand the risks involved in using social media and how to navigate the risks.
- Understand the dangers involved in sharing content and personal information.
- Learn what to do if people ask for personal details, are mean or abusive online, post embarrassing photos of your child.
- Manage their own digital footprint – for example, you could talk about what your child would like their digital footprint to say about them, now and in the future.
The Australian Parenting website Raisingchildren provides further information for parents on how best children can manage the use of social media. As a parent you can always get up-to-date information about the latest games, apps and social media platforms on the eSafety Commissioner website.
At All Saints Grammar, technology is an integral part of our teaching. We continue to educate our students in best practises around the responsible use of technology. As parents, you also have a significant role to play in safeguarding your children and developing digital citizens who strive to be ‘better learners and better people’.
Head of Student Wellbeing/Head of Primary