There has been an increase in younger children now having regular access to social media and if you’re worried that they’re entering a world you can’t follow, Scotland4Kids has the ultimate social media guide to help keep you and your tween internet savvy – especially if Santa is bringing them their own smart device this Christmas!There have been multiple studies into the harmful effects of social media on young people’s mental health and keeping children safe online is rightly near the top of the worry list for many parents today.
Kids do everything online – from learning to socialising, to gaming and shopping. For kids, learning how to spot the risks and keep safe online is a life skill that will be helpful for years to come.
The most popular apps with tweens right now:
Instagram is the most popular app with tweens today. You might even use it yourself. But if you don’t– it’s an app where you can post a picture (or several) with a caption. Whatever you upload gets viewed by other users who follow your account. It also allows you to post videos and flex your creative muscle by creating stories.
Pros: It’s a great way for your child to discover inspiring ideas. Users can report inappropriate comments, and offending users can have their accounts deactivated by Instagram.
Cons: It can promote unrealistic ideas of what’s real or normal– especially when it comes to body image. Instagram has been criticised for not protecting young people from harmful content, which is an ongoing issue that they’re working on improving.
In a nutshell, TikTok is a place where you can share or view videos which can be as short as five seconds to 120 seconds in length.
Pros: It’s a fun way for kids to be creative with music and videos and text. They can also use it as learning tool.
Cons: There isn’t screening for different age-groups, so they might see inappropriate videos. Comments can also be negative. Kids (and adults) are able to comment freely, and unkind or rude comments can be shared on others’ or their own content.
With tweens, YouTube make-up tutorial videos, video game demos, singing and music videos all have huge popularity. Some users who have thousands of followers, including children and teens, get paid (sometimes enough to live on) by companies for reviewing their products in their videos.
Pros: A great source of free educational and entertaining videos. YouTube has better child protection rules than many other sites, with content filtered depending on if it’s made for kids or not.
Cons: Like with Instagram, influencers can encourage an unrealistic view of what’s normal. If your child isn’t logged in, it’s still possible for them to stumble across inappropriate content.
Online risks for tweens, and how to protect them
Sharing personal information
Whatever platform your child is on, they should know never to share personal information about themselves publicly. That includes their whole name, address, phone number, email address, bank account details and what school they go to. Any accounts they have on post-sharing sites/apps (like Instagram and TikTok) should be set to private, so that only people they know can see what they share. A good rule of thumb is to never share anything online that they wouldn’t be happy to publish on the front page of a newspaper.
Socialising online – staying safe and avoiding cyberbullying
When it comes to communicating with people online, the first rule should be to speak in the same way that they would to someone face-to-face. That includes both what they say to others, and how they let themselves be treated too.
They should not meet up in person with anyone they’ve met online. In some cases where your child has been having video calls with another child who shares a common interest (like saving the environment!), you should be present if they ever want to meet in real life. Have regular chats together so that they feel comfortable sharing their problems with you. Usually kids who are bullied online are also bullied at school. Help them feel like they’ve got a safe space where they can talk.
The internet is full of stuff that children shouldn’t see. From fake news to images that promote a negative body image, to pornography to negative ideologies – it’s no wonder that parents worry. While you can control what they can see at home to an extent with the settings on your WIFI account, it’s still easy for them to come across harmful content. The best way forward is to educate them in how to tackle the dangers themselves.