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Staying safe and social online

This month, we reported on a study into social media use by Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield. Her findings raise considerable concerns about children’s increasing dependence on ‘likes’ and comments for acceptance and affirmation. But with social media here to stay, is switching off the answer?

 

A recent article in the New Scientist suggests that rather than scaremongering, we need to teach our children how to navigate this new world. Whether it’s building our children’s tech skills, opening their minds to new opinions or helping forge friendships, social media can be a force for good. According to one study, 29% of teenagers reported that using social media helped them feel less shy, while 20% said it increased their confidence.

 

Despite the benefits, we know that the world of social media can be daunting for parents. So here are a few of our top tips to help your child stay safe and social online:

  • Explore – or even join – the social media platform your child is using. By understanding how they work, you’ll be better placed to decide whether they’re appropriate for your child.
  • Check the minimum age requirement of the platform and read the privacy section to make sure you’re comfortable with their terms and conditions.
  • Talk to your child regularly about their online experiences. Reassure them that they can come to you with questions or concerns.
  • Teach your child that the same rules apply in the online world as offline. They shouldn’t talk to strangers or feel pressured to do anything they don’t want to.
  • Investigate online tools that can set limits on usage or block certain sites or activities.
  • Help your child set a strong password that others won’t easily guess, and make sure they know never to share this with others.
  • Go through the safety features of each site with your child so that they feel confident blocking unwanted attention.
  • Discuss the kind of information and images that are appropriate to post online and explain the implications of sharing personal data.
  • Review your child’s list of friends together to make sure they know everyone personally, and reiterate that they’re not to accept requests from people they don’t know.

 

Today’s top sites

Trends in social media come and go, with new platforms continuing to pop up around the world. But here’s our guide to a few of the top sites that are here to stay:

Facebook
With over 2 billion active users a month, Facebook continues to be one of the most influential social media platforms around the world. It allows users to set up their own profile, post photos and share content with their network of friends.

YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, where anyone can upload their own videos to share with others. It’s becoming increasingly popular with younger children, who tune in to catch up with their favourite shows and YouTube vloggers (a video blogger) – many of whom attract celebrity status.

Instagram
Similar to Facebook, Instagram allows its users to create a personal profile and upload photos. These photos can be shared privately with your own network, or publicly, with all Instagram users.

Twitter
Part online news service, part social media network, Twitter users post short messages – up to 280 characters – which can be read, shared and replied to across the platform.

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