Social media is no longer old news and, is shaping how we connect with family and friends today. Undoubtedly it is a convenient and useful tool, helping us to keep in touch with one another despite being apart.
Russel, 16 years, shares that he uses YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to watch reviews and video essays. He is ‘friends’ with his parents on social media, as is Taj, 15 years. Although Taj prefers Telegram, Instagram and TikTok to message and view friends’ posts.
Despite more people being familiar with social media, the issues and problems with social media have not gone away. In fact, studies have shown the negative effects of social media to adversely affect the health of teens as well as potentially put the safety of our children at risk.
At which age parents should allow their children have their own social media accounts remain a hotly debated issue across countless homes. Some parents have created their children’s first social media accounts, posting pictures of their toddlers growing up, sharing these moments with friends and family on their network. Most parents agree that banning children from social media access is obviously not practical especially for families living in a city.
At some point, children will want their own social media account. Samantha, 13 years, shares “I don’t have any other social media except WhatsApp because my parents do not allow me to have Instagram or others. I wish I have other social media (accounts) though.”
The biggest risk and main concern for any parents is the safety of our children. With numerous news reports about data leaks and breaches, it is important that children understand the risks and dangers of sharing information that could threaten their security.
To help parents decide on their approach to their children’s social media access and usage, the Media Literacy Council has a list of resources for parents to help raise considerate, compassionate and confident digital users.
A useful guide "Social Media Guide: What is the Right Age for My Child?" suggests some key questions parents should reflect upon before deciding on their approach such as:
• At what age should I let my child use social media?
• Is my child ready for a social media account?
• Do I know the popular apps?
• Do I have an account on these social media platforms?
• Have I been having conversations with my child?
• Have I set up some family rules?
• Do I know how to control my child’s social media use?
• Am I open with my child?
Despite its risks, social media has the potential to boost children’s growth and development. With social media apps, children have fun, learn to play games and will need to read and write more when interacting with their friends on social media. It encourages them to express themselves and develop their social relationships.
With a global reach, children on social media may also meet “friends” from another country and learn more about different cultures. They could be exposed to a diverse range of content and information such as music, art and video clips that could benefit their growth and learning.
Keep in mind that technology evolves quickly. In a short period of time, social media may add more features or change its user interface, which could affect the security settings on your account or entirely new social media apps may roll out anytime.
Our children in Singapore have access to a computer or a personal mobile phone and could easily create a new social media account anytime. While most social media platforms have age restrictions, they are usually not regulated as the user could lie about the age and there are usually no checks in place.
Hence, the best protection for your child is perhaps to help him/her be independent and internet-savvy, learning to protect their own information.
Take the first step by learning what to consider about your child’s social media presence.