Social Media

This blog was written a few years ago when we first encountered the issues of social media, teenagers and online safety. We have nativatgated through the early stages and now have a 15 year old and 13 year old who have thankfully understood our requests to be careful. 

If you are heading into this minefield I really hope this helps!.........

We have entered the teenage years in our household.  Years ago this would have only meant stroppy youngsters storming off upstairs and banging doors, but in today’s world it’s a little different.

We have a teenage daughter.  Outside the safe confines of our family home, her friends are her world.  They all have social media and, as we all know, peer pressure sometimes dictates our wishes and desires.  This is something that we have experienced.  Neither myself or husband were at the time, completely au fait with any other social media platform than Facebook.  Due to the fact that we were not confident we could keep our daughter completely safe online, we decided to offer Facebook as an alternative to the options she was telling us were a must have.  We thought we were being fairly reasonable with our offer only to be told, ‘Facebook is for oldies’!

How times change so quickly!  Eventually, she decided that she would give Facebook a try.  I suppose it was the ‘it’s Facebook or nothing’ attitude from us which made her realise any kind of social media was better than nothing.  As the weeks progressed I in particular found it very entertaining to have my daughter on social media with me.  We have a great relationship and she shares a lot at home, so I suppose it didn’t enhance our relationship just complimented it.  I started tagging her in funny posts I had found on my news feed; she started posting photos of family events and tagging me in them.  She posted a beautiful message along with a picture of us both on Mothers Day.  All of these things I found to be a wonderful addition to our already loving and caring relationship.

However, her desire and wish to go further on social media was still hanging in the air.  My overwhelming desire and wish to keep my daughter safe was battling against her ever increasing anxiousness.  The trouble was all her friends had other social media and, away from school, were chatting and even talking about homework using Instagram and the like.

Husband and I were lucky enough to have an informal chat with her head teacher at a school event.  We didn’t chat for long but he agreed it was a minefield of decision-making and constant checking of online activity.  He made a very valid point.  He told us it would help enormously if parents did not let underage children join social media groups.  This happened to be one of the problems we had faced 12 months beforehand.  Our daughter could not understand that if her friend, who was under age, was allowed social media then why wasn’t she?  We stood our ground and did the right thing, but perhaps before any parent grants permission to access social media, it may be worth checking the age limits.  I will add these to the end of my blog.

It soon became clear that, despite the education she had received regarding online activity at school, she was very naive when it came to using her social media account.  We found we had to go back to basics with teaching her to stay safe online.  We discovered she thought every profile photograph was the true identity of the person holding the social media account she was interacting with.  Probably all of the accounts she interacted with were ok, BUT, we all know it can be a dangerous world out there with people pretending to be someone they are not.  We had no desire to frighten our daughter, however she was shocked when we explained how careful she needs to be in order to keep herself safe.  She’s a very sensible girl and thankfully the message got through, so we decided to progress along the social media pathway and grant her access to the platforms on which she wished to communicate with her friends.

By this point, I had got to grips with most social media programs.  One condition of having more social media was I would be one of her followers.  To be honest, there was little that interested me on any of her social media but Facebook.  I did keep tabs on her activity and was pleased to see she had settled down and was not befriending every Tom, Dick and Harry in this world!

Some might say we were being overprotective initially.  I know plenty of parents that have happily let their children set up social media accounts without any concerns.  All parents are different.  Where social media is concerned there is no right or wrong answer.  In everyday life, we make decisions for our children which we believe are the right decisions for them.  No one knows our children better than we do, and I’ll go as far as to say sometimes we know them better than they know themselves.

I hope this particular blog brings some comfort to those that are about to enter this particular chapter with their children. Our world is changing; it is a world where the internet is king.  We will not be successful in our attempts to stop youngsters accessing this occasionally mind boggling world.  The best we can do is monitor their activity and educate them about online safety.  Below, I have included the link to the NSPCC website which provides wonderful tips and advice on how to keep your children safe online. Also, ITV’s This Morning had a chat with Alice Beer and Richard Percy regarding online safety. I have included the link to This Morning’s website and the article. You will find details of apps to enable parents to monitor online activity.

My advice to parents is, if your instincts tell you it is not the right time to agree to your child’s requests, then don’t be afraid to say no.  If you do decide to let your child access any part of the internet, then please please check their online activity from time to time and make sure they have been educated properly to keep themselves safe especially when interacting with others through social media.

The information I mentioned within this blog are:

NSPCC Online Safety advice: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

This Morning online safety link: http://www.itv.com/thismorning/hot-topics/the-apps-designed-to-help-beat-the-bullies

Age limits for Social Media:

AGE 13: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, Snapchat, Musical.ly, Flickr. Youtube & Wechat are for 13+ with parents permission, otherwise they are for 18+.

AGE 14: Linkedin.

AGE 16: Whatsapp.

AGE 17: Vine.