Why parents need to know what their tweens and teens are up to on social media

Imagine this: Your 14-year-old daughter was using her Snapchat account to send nudes and videos to her high school boyfriend with the hopes that they will vanish in a few hours. That, according to Snapchat users, is the beauty of the app. Content does not stay on your account indefinitely.

What your daughter was not aware of is that her boyfriend was screen recording the content, and now it has been sent to their peers at school. And like what happens to such content, your daughter has gone viral.

According to Digital Media Law Expert Emma Sadlier, parents think this will never happen to them until it does.

This is the case for the many families that send her inquiries daily.

ALSO SEE: What you should know if your pre-teen has an Instagram account

Nedbank recently hosted families on a webinar, offering cybersecurity lessons. Sadlier spoke about the dangers of social media, making reference to age restrictions and the use and laws regulating social media. Do parents know the age restrictions for the different social media apps and games their children are using?

13 is the usual age for most of these apps, including Whatsapp. According to Sadlier, Whatsapp dropped its restriction from 16-years to 13, and unfortunately, “the worst content I have seen on social media recently is circulating on Whatsapp”.

Kids younger than 13 are usually more gullible and it’s easier to solicit all kinds of content from them. The best advice Sadlier gives parents is to keep their children away from social media until they are in high school. It does not mean they will not fall victim to cyberbullying, fake news, and other dangers, but they are older and better informed at that stage.

ALSO SEE: Protecting your child from cyberbullying and suicide on social media

Here are a few tips she has about the use of mobile devices and social media:

  • Teach your children to be wary of friend requests from people they don’t know. They should consider everyone to be dodgy until they can prove that they are not.
  • Children learn from observing, so it is important to show them how they should use their phones. Parents should, therefore, be good role models for their kids. You cannot reprimand your child for always being on their phone if you are always on yours.
  • Manage the WI-FI at home and ensure that it is off at night so that they cannot access it.
  • Create an open-door policy with your child and have regular conversations regarding what they are doing on social media, and if they came across disturbing content. Your kids need to be comfortable enough to chat with you about their social media use. This means parents will not completely infringe on their children’s privacy, but be kept in the loop enough to know if something is going wrong.
  • Teach your children the billboard rule. Unless what you are about to type or post is something you can post on a big billboard with your face and full details on it, then you should not post it at all. Kids need to remember that “the internet does not forget”.

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