When it comes to children using social media my strongest encouragement to parents is “be with your children (in that part of their life)”. That in itself is not too revolutionary, and I will explain further, but I guess what makes this easier is consciously setting the example in the first place – model for your children what you will expect.
I raise this because children are making and will make mistakes online; it is a natural part of learning, yet the cost of these mistakes can be quite significant.
I also raise it because of the alarming increase in Australia this year in relation to image-based abuse and child exploitation most likely due to increased opportunities for offenders and increased vulnerability for children.
I encourage parents to look at the governments eSafety website where a recent article from the eSafety Commissioner gives constructive guidance - www.esafety.gov.au/about-us/bl...
When our children see what their parents do it makes it easier for them to be ready to do the right thing (although they still have choice). If they also have an understanding of the rationale behind our choices it shapes what they will choose. And then, if you think about it, they are watching anyway…and they may use their observations to explain their later choices.
So, I encourage parents to model the behaviours that they want instilled and replicated – this goes for all areas of life and is particularly important in relation to online behaviours.
It could be said “my modelling career really became important when I became a parent” which is the case for every parent.
Some examples are:
- If you want a location for children to place their phone, put yours there (definitely do not allow devices in bedrooms)
- Give ideas on when phones should be switched off and back on
- Allow your children to sit with you and view your own social media feed or browser history) – what pops up, who/what you follow and why, who may ask to follow you and how you decide who you will permit access, how you do your own privacy, talk about your standards, etc.
- Talk about the things for which you use the internet – do you sit back and wait to be entertained or do you use it for direct purposes?
- Explain about connecting with people – guide your children in how they can encourage and care for others, talk about the good stuff
I think it is really key to drum home the message to young people that when we click send or post we lose control of it – whether it is an image or a message, we lose control of what the other person does with it as well as how they interpret it.
Why not share about mistakes you have made or seen – talk about reply-all emails and celebrity mistakes with posts and share how you have misinterpreted and been misinterpreted; this will normalise their errors and have them more ready to approach you when something is not right.
Modelling behaviours does not guarantee anything but makes things easier; and if your children are older it does not mean that you have missed your chance because the next step is to be present with your children in their social media. Know the apps they use and how they use them (children use apps differently to adults) see what they are posting publicly and be aware of the content of their friendship groups.
It is entirely appropriate to check the conversations they are having and messages they are sending and receiving, this means you should know passwords. It helps children if they know that you are going to check. You do not need to make comment but be familiar with what is happening and monitor the impact on the mood of your children.
We regularly pray for the parents and students of the College. As children grow up, relating including relating online will cause pain and I trust that we can support you and your children in learning from that pain. I also trust that the example we set as parents and being with our children in all parts of their life will reduce and avoid a lot of the pain.
You may wish to look at the NWCC Online Behaviour Guide for reference.