The truth is that there is no right or wrong answer, Lucy Battersby argues that "It is the same question of when you allow a child to cross the street under their own guidance or when you allow them to go down to the park by themselves. It is potentially dangerous, it is not 100 per cent dangerous."1 While major Social Media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Snapchat have an age restriction of 13 years and it’s even older for Vine and YouTube, there are still thousands of younger children accessing these sites every day. According to Raisingchildren.net.au ‘Of Australian children aged 9-10 years, 29% have a profile on a social networking site, as do 59% of those aged 11-12 years and 92% of those aged 15-16 years.’ It is inevitable that young children will have an increasing interest in Social Media especially as their older siblings and peers start creating accounts. If your child is under 13 and wants to join a Social Media site, explain that they need to be over 13 to create an account and if they must have an online presence then there are safe alternatives in place for younger children, these sites include: Club Penguin, Webkinz and Whyville.
While many parents may want to keep their children from accessing these sites for as long as possible they also want to keep their child included and not feel left out among their friends. If your child is showing an interest in creating an account it is important to be open and honest with them, the world of Social Media can be a scary one and it is important that children are aware of the potential dangers. However, it also can also be a great place for your child to express themselves, create and increase personal connections with friends and family. Tena Davies explains that ‘overall, social networking sites are like an extension of face-to-face interactions. So the biggest benefit your child might get from using social networking sites is a sense of connection and belonging to family, friends and peers.’2
When you feel that your child is ready for a Social Media account there are things you can do to ensure they are kept safe online:
When used appropriately Social Media can be a great platform for creativity, a sense of well-being and belonging but there is also a high potential for unsafe behaviour if not used and monitored correctly. It has been argued that age is arbitrary when it comes to Social Media, parents and carers must assess their own child to see when they have the social skills to remain safe on these sites.
Written by Gina Flashman, OSHC Administrator