If your children’s friends are already using social media, your kids might be begging you to let them download these apps. As a parent who grew up without access to so much technology, it can be tricky to know how to handle social media for kids. So, the question arises: at what age should you let your child get social media? Should you ban access or allow controlled access from a young age? What are the dangers of social media platforms? Keep reading for points to consider before making your decision.
Social media and the internet change all the time
Whether you’re a millennial parent who grew up using Instant Messenger and MySpace or a Gen X parent who grew up without any social media, things have changed. Nowadays, young people can access many social media apps you couldn’t even have dreamed about while growing up. Although many adults claim social media allows them to feel more connected, it’s essential to look at the facts before allowing your child to use these sites.
What are the age restrictions for my child and social media?
Most social media platforms require users to be in middle school – specifically, aged 13 and over. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter all have a minimum or average age of 13, so why are so many younger children using social media platforms? Unfortunately, it’s easy to ignore the rules and lie about your age, which is how so many young people have social media accounts on social platform.
Should kids 13 and under have social media?
No, kids under 13 shouldn’t be using social media platforms. For a child to have a social media account, the minimum age requirement is 13. This rule is there to protect your kids, so encourage your child to take this rule seriously. Talk to your kids about why this rule is essential and why social media might not be suitable for younger children.
Why is there an age limit for social media?
The minimum age requirement exists for data protection purposes; companies are not allowed to collect and store the details of children aged 12 and under. These rules play an important part in keeping children safe from inappropriate content, so it’s important to encourage your child to follow the rules. It’s also important to remember that the minimum age requirement doesn’t mean that all content on the site will be suitable for a 13 year old; far from it!
The dangers of my child and social media
As a modern parent, you must be clued up regarding social media. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything will be fine. The best way to keep your kids safe online is to educate yourself and your child about the potential dangers lurking online.
Some of the dangers are:
If you use social media platforms, you will know what content can crop up. Social media platforms can contain pornography, hate speech and violent content. Although these types of content might be taken down eventually, your children can’t unsee what they’ve already been exposed to.
Social media is supposed to connect people, but what if it connects your child to the wrong people? Many predators use social media platforms as a way to groom children online. Using false profiles, adults can pose as children and befriend kids.
Children, like adults, seek validation online. It’s easy to act differently online. Your child might send photographs they later regret, share their location unknowingly or say things they’d never dream of saying in person.
Risks of social media
Allowing your children to have their own social media accounts puts them at risk of the potential dangers above. However, you can set family rules about social media use to keep them safe. Even so, there are other risks associated with the social media world – for example:
- A 2021 study from Indiana University Bloomington found that social media use was associated with more severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and loneliness
- A 2018 study found that social media access during the night was associated with a reduction in sleep. Adverse effects of this included low mood and poor functioning
- A 2021 study concluded, ‘Social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health, depending on how it is used and the specific features that are engaged with’.
Consider your own social media account use and the impact it has on your life. Does seeing photos of another parents’ seemingly perfect home leave you feeling worse about yours? Do pictures of mums with amazing six-packs make you feel rubbish about your tiger stripes? Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly when you should be doing other things?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the above, you know the pitfalls of social media firsthand. And if you struggle with those things, imagine how much tougher it would be for a child who does not yet have a fully developed brain. Social media has pros and cons, and it’s vital to fully consider both sides before giving your child access to these apps.
For more about this, look at our article Social Media: Parenting Friend Or Foe?
Is my child exposed to social media peer pressure
For young people, it can be tough being the odd one out. If your kids feel left out at school because they don’t have a social media account, they might be badgering you about it at home. Should you give in to peer pressure and give your children their own social media account? No, you shouldn’t give in to peer pressure but here are some things you can do to make things easier for your children:
Explain your reasons
Talk to your children about why you don’t want them on social media yet. Discuss the dangers and the studies and why you think keeping them away from social media, for the time being, is safer.
Talk to other parents
Your kids might feel like they’re the only ones not online, but they’re probably not. There will be other parents like you who are wary of the online world. Speak to other parents about the dangers. Many parents ignore the risks and hope for the best; educating them about keeping their kids safe online can inadvertently keep yours safe too.
Talk about inappropriate content
Don’t ignore things that haven’t happened yet. Your children will probably see inappropriate things before you’d like them to. For example, friends might show them something you’d rather they didn’t see. Talk to your kids about pornography and inappropriate content. Educate them so they know it’s not a realistic portrayal of sex. Do role plays with them so they know how to say no to people trying to show them things they don’t want to see.
Read BellyBelly’s article Children And Porn | The MUST Have Talk With Your Children.
Make sure your kids know it’s not forever
You can’t keep your children away from social media forever. Figure out what age you feel comfortable with, and tell your kids beforehand. Knowing they’ll get there soon enough will make it easier to wait. Meanwhile, you can devise ways to stay safe online and discuss any social media issues they hear about in the playground at school.
When should I let my child get social media?
The only reason to allow your child on social media is that you want to. Parenting is full of decisions, and this is one of the ‘biggies’ for modern-day parents. Kids access more information online than ever before and although this is great in some ways, it also means some kids are seeing things they shouldn’t.
Your children probably want social media to connect with their friends online. They might feel left out if everyone else continues chatting after school and they’re not involved in the conversation. They might also want to use a social media platform to learn more about their interests – for example, to see music videos from their favourite band, try out the latest viral recipes or follow their fave sports players.
You know your child’s maturity level and are best placed to judge when he or she is aware and ready for social media. There’s no such thing as the right age to go online; it’s more to do with children’s personality and whether they will adhere to the rules you lay down about social media use. For example, you might want to limit screen time, have access to their social media messages or have them tell you about any worrying content they see online.
One thing to be wary of is that kids are much more savvy than parents think. Kids learn how to delete messages and hide apps and searches from their parents. If you want your kids to stay safe online, you’ll need to brush up on your tech skills and stay two steps ahead of them.