Parents’ Guide to Social Media

The way the world perceives social media has changed over the years. Social just had a novelty value in its infancy but it has grown to become the preferred mode of communication for millions – even billions – of people worldwide.

Explaining social media to parents.

Some of the initial misconceptions that were held about social media have now been smashed. For example, the idea that social platforms are very much for ‘the kids’ and younger generations. The image of teenager seemingly glued to social media on their smartphone is still a common one – but the truth is, these days, you are just as likely to see a thirtysomething or fortysomething doing much the same!

True, there are social channels that do have a predominantly younger user base – Snapchat, for example – and new, less well known, instant messaging platforms are springing up all the time. Even the more established platforms evolve very quickly and update their features on a regular basis.

For any parent, it is important to have a strong knowledge of social media and to keep track of developments. In a previous blog post, How to address cyber bullying, we covered one good reason for this. After all, most cyber bullying incidents occur on social media platforms. Another blog covered the wider issue of How to keep your kids safe online. But, as well as giving children sensible advice, such as ‘if you wouldn’t do it offline, don’t do it online’, it is also essential that parents also have a good knowledge of social media platforms and that they keep up to dare with the latest instant messaging trends. The best way to advise a child about how to use social media channels is to know how they work yourself.

There is basic common sense advice and simple rules that all children should follow to use social media safely. These include the likes (no pun intended) of never adding a location to a message or a photo they have shared, or using a real name on a profile that is available publicly. Of course, children should always be reminded to never give out personal information. But, as previously mentioned, parents that have a good knowledge of the key features and nuances of specific social platforms will be best placed to give the best advice to their children.

Here are some of the key things to be aware of about some of the most popular social media platforms.

Snapchat

Snapchat is image based and allows users to share videos and pictures. It appeals to young people because it feels very spontaneous as the images posted aren’t permanent. From a safety point of view, Snapchat is good because users can only share with friends and you can’t post publicly. However, the default setting allows anybody that knows your username or phone number to send you a message.

There are few key safety points to remember with Snapchat. Firstly, children should be mindful that although images are not permanent they can still be captured by screenshot. Snap Map is a feature that shows the location of a user. This, obviously, is best avoided.

Parents should also be aware of Snapchat Streaks. This is the sending of snaps between users back and forth, like a tennis rally, over consecutive days. Snapchat rewards users with special emojis for long streaks. These can become obsessive, especially for youngsters, and are a good example of how the virtual world of social media can impact on emotional health.

On a positive note, Snapchat deal with concerns and complaints very effectively. Contact safety@snapchat.com to report the sending of inappropriate images or harassment. Any account can be deleted as long as you have the username and password. The platform also provides a special deletion request for parents who are worried about the activity on their child’s account.

Instagram

Instagram is a photo sharing platform that allows users to edit photos taken on their phone and post them. Images can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter with the click of a button at the same time. By default, Instagram photos are open to the public. The platform lets users browse public photos posted by others, as well as people they follow.

There is an option to make an Instagram profile private and, like Facebook, friend requests need to be sent to connect with another user. There are various photo privacy settings. These include turning off the location of photos.

Facebook

The world’s biggest social media platform, Facebook, has many applications written by third parties. Similarly, there are many apps that you can use a Facebook login to access. Because of this, it is important that you carefully review privacy settings on a Facebook account. You can control what is shared and what friends can share about you.

Facebook offers perhaps the greatest amount of privacy settings of all social platforms. However, the company has been criticized for the time it takes to deal with complaints or to take down inappropriate material. To avoid the likelihood of issues occurring, choose the most appropriate privacy settings for your child’s account.

The older a child gets the more independent they will want to be – and this includes their use of social media. However, parents can take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their child on social networks, without stopping them interacting with friends and enjoying the whole social media experience.