If you have a child right now it’s guaranteed that they’ve grown up with technology and social media. They’ve seen their parents use social media, depending on their age their friends may be using social media and they see social media being used on their favorite television shows in various forms. Social media is just normal to preteens and can be both a good and bad thing for them to utilize.
It’s hard to keep up with the latest social media apps that kids use since new platforms are always being created in the app stores and marketed to preteens/teenagers. Facebook has safety measures in place to ensure that pre-teens don’t use their platform until age 13 but other platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… don’t have age restrictions and seem much more popular amongst preteens.
Should You Let Pre-Teens Use Social Media?
I think the age at which parents should let their pre-teens use social media is completely up to the parent’s discretion. Do you trust your kids enough to be on social media? Do you feel that they’re responsible enough? Would they listen to proper safety rules regarding social media? There are many factors that parents should consider before allowing their children to use social media and it shouldn’t be a decision that is taken lightly. While social media could be a great communication tool amongst friends and family, it could also be a very dangerous tool for naive preteens and teenagers. Here are some general statistics from Kids Health.
17% of teens say they’ve been contacted online by someone they didn’t know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable
30% of teens say they’ve received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age
39% of teens admitted to lying about their age to gain access to websites
Personally, I allow my 12-year-old daughter to utilize Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat but I have spoken to her about the potential dangers of social media, the ways to use it properly and I also monitor her very closely. I monitor her very closely, despite her protests and claims of my invading her privacy because there are many risks to using social media. These risks include:
Preteens and teenagers alike are at a very high risk for cyber bullying and that is, unfortunately, something that my daughter has had to deal with in the past few months. Classmates and other friends may feel like they’re anonymous and can hide behind the computer screen and this allows for bullying, tormenting and harassing of innocent children over the internet. The sad truth behind this is that if you can’t figure out who is behind the social media account that’s bullying, you might never know who has turned on your child and who is spreading rumors about them behind their backs. Law enforcement won’t take cyber bullying seriously unless there’s an actual threat towards the child or until an unfortunate crime has happened. It’s important to discuss cyber bullying with your child and to let them know that it’s imperative that they speak to you if any harassment is occurring.
Oversharing That Could Lead to Stalking
Preteens and teenagers love to take selfies and photos of what’s going on in their lives. While posting those photos they may mistakingly share information that could be dangerous to them. Tagging their school in the photo or even accidentally getting their house number in a photo could be potential for child predators to find your child. I would most definitely make your children aware of these dangers and monitor or review every photo they take before they post them on social media. Make sure that there’s absolutely nothing that could identify them or where they live or frequent in those photos before they post them. It’s simple for photos to get into the wrong hands.
Alternatively, it’s important to make sure that your children don’t tag any locations where they live, go to school or frequent. Tagging these locations can also make it easy for predators to find your child. Review every single post they make and if they tag a location in those photos I would highly suggest that you remove the location tag. Make sure they don’t mention the name of their school in a post, make sure they don’t use their last name, make sure that they don’t post anything that could be identifying and help lead someone to your child.
Talking to Strangers
This is something that we have all done as adults and something that is intriguing to children. The idea of making new friends over the internet is something that kids are interested in. They may want to meet people who share the same interests, like the same band, are interested in the same hobby, etc… But this could potentially be very dangerous for naive preteens and teens. They might think they’re talking to another 12-15 year old who also like Bruno Mars and sitting behind that screen could be absolutely anyone. It could potentially be a child predator who poses as teenagers in order to communicate with other teens. This potential predator could somehow lure your child to meet them and God only knows what could happen. I definitely wouldn’t allow preteens making friends online until they’re much older. If they do make friends online I would highly, highly suggest to closely monitor their conversations to make sure that they aren’t giving out any identifying information or planning on meeting anyone offline. This is essential in keeping your children safe.
Public vs. Private Settings
Everyone knows that social media platforms have the option of protecting your account by making it private, but should you do that for your kids? Again, this is a decision that can be made only by parents but I think making their account private is a good step in keeping your kids safe on social media. This can ensure that strangers can’t message or try to add your child, you can approve who your child is friends with on the platforms and you can feel safer knowing that their information and photos aren’t all over the internet. I suggest only allowing school friends and family members adding your child as a friend and no one that you or your child don’t know personally.
If you follow simple security precautions, monitor your children closely and allow them to know the potential dangers of social media, you should be able to feel confident knowing that your child is safe online.