According to the most recent survey from online safety charity CyberSafeKids, more than 80% of children aged between eight and 12 years have profiles on social media and messaging apps.
So how can we keep our children safe online?
It’s welcome news that the photo and video-sharing social network service Instagram has launched new parental controls to inform parents when their teenage child is targeted by bullies or harassed. But two-way conversations between parents and children are also essential.
Instagram’s new controls mean that parents will receive information when a teen reports another account to the platform. They will also be able to monitor screen time, see their teen’s followers and other usage habits. Users must be 13 years or older to download the app.
According to the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, parents will now be able to shape their child’s experience on the platform. “They can see how much time their teen spends on Instagram. They can set limits to that time,” he said, adding that, “they can pick periods of the week where their child can’t use Instagram.”
Instagram parent Meta is launching similar parental supervision controls for its virtual reality Quest system.
As welcome as these developments may be, we can only teach our children how to manage their online lives safely by acknowledging how important apps such as Instagram are in their lives and discussing with them how to use these apps responsibly.
Ysabel Gerrard, a sociology researcher of digital media and society at the University of Sheffield, stated: “There’s more to internet safety for kids than the volume of time that they’re spending on the app.
“Actually, a child can spend 10 minutes on the app and see something or have something said to them that ruins their lives.”
This is echoed by other experts who have pointed out that a short time scrolling through undesirable content can have a far more adverse effect on a child than hours spent chatting online with their friends.
Taking an interest
As a grown-up, you may not be interested in social media, but try to understand what an important means of communication it is for your child.
And don’t forget that your child is probably a lot more tech savvy than you are, so he or she may find it possible to get around your parental controls by setting up other accounts.
The best thing you can do is chat to your children so they understand that you’re not trying to spoil their fun and that these controls are implemented out of a place of love and concern for them.