Social Media and Kids: How to Safely Grow Up Online?

Technology and social media are allowing many children to grow up online and digitally record their lives. But at what cost? As a parent you should always exercise good cyber judgement regarding social media and kids. Consider what are the possible implications of your posts’ digital footprint for the future.

The quick advancement of technology is allowing many children to grow up online with digital records of their lives. As parents, you may delight in sharing your children’s milestones and unique moments with the world. But are you aware about the possible implications when it comes to digital presence, social media and kids?

Technology and social media can be seen as a double-edged sword, there are many benefits but you shouldn’t ignore the risks. It’s a tricky terrain.

As such, Kinderling Conversation spoke to eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant and Amanda Third, Principal Research Fellow in Digital Social and Cultural Research at Western Sydney University. According to Amanda, parents now have the idea that their child has rights and opinions when it comes their digital footprint. The decision to post and share might not be easy but consideration is necessary.

To simplify this ‘sharenting’ dilemma, the two researchers offered their expert tips to educate parents on how to post online.

Let your kids know before you post about them

Have you ever talked to your children about posting their pictures online? The conversation will obviously depend on their age but it’s about modeling the right behaviours, as Julie explained. It’s important to talk to your children before sharing content about them.

Besides respecting and considering the opinion of your children, you also get to show how engaged you are in their online lives. This way you can establish a consistent two-way communication and be part of their digital world as early as possible.

At the end of the day, this is a complex process with a learning curve. Parents won’t always get it right, explained Amanda.
But these conversations are healthy and they help children to understand what it means to be online. It also provides them with knowledge about how to respond to certain online events.

Get to know your child’s opinion about posting something

As a parent, your first impulse might be to share that lovely beach photo of your children on Facebook or Instagram. But did you ask your children what they think about it? Amanda encourages parents to listen and to respect a ‘no’ for an answer.

If they’re positive about sharing, then you have just strengthened your communication. If they don’t wish to share anything, then it’s very important to respect their decision, according to Amanda. It’s about replicating the type of behaviour you’d like them to use with others too.

Social media and kids doesn’t have to be a topic of constant worry and concern for parents. If there’s proper education, respect and understanding, then things can function in a rather healthy and balanced way.

You’re not seeking any sort of legal consent or permission here. It’s a matter of principle and ethics, to respect and be respected. Amanda mentioned that your child will be better prepared for the digital world.

What are the possible implications of your post?

It can be delightful to share precious moments with your friends and family. But as a parent, you need to first consider the e-safety and physical safety of your children, advised Julie.

Education and awareness can help both parents and children to protect themselves in the online world. For starters, talk about no-go zones as a family. Julie mentioned that any personally identifiable information, such as a full name and address should be protected at all times.

There is plenty you can do to help your children grow up online in a safe environment. For instance, do not display any school uniforms that disclose your child’s whereabouts and ensure their safety is not compromised.

When you look at the future, it’s difficult to know what can or might affect your child, as Amanda said. Society and cultures are transforming as technology evolves, so it’s a good idea to stick to some basic precautions and good sense.

For example, posting a nude picture of your kid is probably not a good idea… After all, you don’t know how that will be seen in the future.

Check your sharing options

In terms of sharing and privacy settings, the two researchers advise parents to increase their security and narrow the number of people who can see their children’s pictures. Changing the privacy setting to close friends and family is generally a great option.

This doesn’t mean you can’t share publicly, it just means you can take precautions. Always consider the safety and welfare of your child before publishing anything.

According to Amanda, parents should always consider the following question: “What kind of digital footprint does this post leave for my child in the future?”
On the other hand, privacy can be very broad and inconsistent. As Julie said, some parents are very protective, some agnostic, and then there are a lot of over-sharing too. To her, it’s about basic respect and courtesy.

She goes as far as saying that it’s all about thinking before you post – exercise good cyber judgement and teach the same to their kids.

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