Social media - two words most people will recognise the world over, and two words that scare many people!
In 2017, it is estimated that social media users will exceed 2.5 BILLION people. That’s over a 3rd of the world on social media.
With such high numbers, our attention must turn to those who are the most unsafe online - our kids.
The facts: 13-17 year olds are on social media
- 71% of all teens are using more than one social networking site
- 41% of all teens use Facebook
- 20% of all teens use Instagram
- 11% of all teens use Snapchat
- 6% of all teens use Twitter
71% of all teenagers on social media? Surely these social networks have age limits and restrictions to ensure the safety of our children?
So what are the age limits on the most popular social media websites?
While these are in place to help keep children safer online, the harsh reality is that...THESE AGE RESTRICTIONS MEAN NOTHING!!!
If a child wants to sign up to social media, they will. Facebook does not ask for proof of age.
Don't worry, it's not time for a mass panic! It's just important to understand that children will be using social media and in instances they will be using it excessively.
So how do we educate children on social media?
FIRST STEP: Educate yourself
As parents there are plenty of things we won't understand about our children. Why are they wearing those clothes? Why are they singing that song?
As parents, role models and adults, it's important that we understand social media and the behaviour around it.
We could just read all the bad stories about social media and fret, urging children to keep away. But, simply put, that just will not work. Children will use social media. To correctly advise them then, you should have an understanding of these channels.
- Create an account: There are so many social media networks! Where do I start!? Start easy. Try the biggest social networks, especially those popular with teens right now (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat)
- Seek help from an existing user: Social media channels are designed to be simple. You will most likely manage alone, but getting advice from an existing user during these first steps can be highly beneficial
- One step at a time: Do not grab a list of every social network and sign up today. It's important to get a proper grasp of one social channel at a time. Enthusiasm is great, but be patient
- It's not a spying tool: Don't sign up to Facebook and immediately send a friend request to your child, and their closest friends! Sign up to educate yourself. Try making your own circles and using it for your own entertainment. This will give you a proper working knowledge of the network. If you spook your child they will just move onto a new network which you don't understand
- Watch and learn: Ask actual teenagers how they use social media. Create an open and honest dialogue, and observe how other teenagers communicate in today’s mobile and social world
SECOND STEP: Educate your children
Once you have educated yourself on social media you are better able to educate your children.
Social media is still relatively new and is still a mystery to many people. It's in our human nature to be afraid of things we don't know. By understanding social media we lose the fear and can educate our children clearly.
We aren't giving you parenting or teaching tips here but here are social media lessons which need to be taught.
The Practical Lessons
If you stop children from being on Twitter or Facebook, they’ll just move to WhatsApp or Instagram or SnapChat or Kik or Telegram or…well, you get the point. Give them the skills to make good decisions and to stay safe first and foremost.
- Teach children that whatever they put online is permanent (this includes texting!) Private is not always private. The photo they post online is not owned by them anymore; it’s owned by Facebook, or by Instagram, or Google and so on. The rights to that photo transfers to the social channel once it is uploaded.
- Teach children not to interact/follow people they don’t know in person.
- 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates! This stat is really important. If a child uploads anything an employer would deem inappropriate, it could stop them from getting their dream job or even going to their preferred University/College.
These are practical tips to teach your children and could be perhaps some of the most important lessons to take away about social media. Everything is permanent and your social profile is an extension of yourself. Be cautious. Be sensible (NOT boring - just sensible).
What if a child asks you if they can sign up to social media?
Don't start with NO! If your child is one the few who has asked if they can sign up to social media - instead of just doing it - it’s important to discuss the reasons why they want to.
- Why do you want a Facebook account? They’ll probably answer with something like, ALL my friends are on it
- Which of your friends are on Facebook? Hopefully they will tell you. If not maybe they’re not ready to be on social media
- Are these the only people you would be friends with on Facebook? This might be a good time to talk about only interacting with people they know in real life. Ask them, what would you do if a stranger added you?
- What do you know about Facebook? They may say something like, you talk to friends and share photos
- What kind of photos would you be sharing? Our guess is that they’ll say something like, I don’t know. Me and my friends. This is a great time to talk about what types of photos are appropriate to share online and why
Popular social networks with teenagers
You have probably heard of some of these; there may be others that surprise you!
Regardless of whether you know of it or not, if your child is on these social networks it is important to have a discussion about their proper use.
Here is a quick breakdown on the 'hottest' apps with teenagers right now and some possible dangers to look out for.
- 1% of all teenagers use Snapchat
- 173 million daily active users
- 65% of users post at least once daily
- 30% of all millennials use Snapchat
- World’s fastest growing social network.
- The main appeal (and thus the importance) of Snapchat is about ephemeral messaging - content disappears after a set amount of time
The app allows users to send a photo that will disappear “forever”. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy to take a screenshot, making that statement completely untrue.
With ephemeral messaging rising to prominence (Instagram have launched ephemeral messaging within their app to better appeal to teens), it is crucial now more than ever teens are educated in the dangers of inappropriate messaging. The 'self-destructing' style of Snapchat’s messaging can lead people into a false sense of security.
- 32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network
- Most Instagram users are between 18 - 29 years old
- Six in ten online adults have Instagram accounts
- 400 million daily active users
- 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram daily.
Instagram has risen to incredible popularity in recent years. In fact, it is now the third largest social channel in the world (beaten by Facebook - who own it - and YouTube).
Instagram has capitalised on all the features that made Snapchat desirable to teens, by replicating them in Instagram. Users can now send ephemeral messages, post Stories and make use of filters.
Social media is NOT scary, nor is it bad. What scares people the most is that they don't understand it. By understanding it, we give ourselves the tools and knowledge to give the best advice to our children.
Simon Noakes is a global speaker on the #FutureSchool, Social Media, Schools Marketing & Founder of Interactive Schools. Simon’s global experience and passion for strategic marketing, thought leadership, brand values, new technology and innovative thinking is transforming schools around the world. Change is the only constant, and schools should stop just talking about 'being outstanding', and focus on being STAND-OUT. Simon does not follow benchmarks. Success can only be delivered through creating new benchmarks and #InspiringSchools. Simon believes that every school is unique, and wants to help tell their #SchoolStories. Simon challenges the traditional methods of communication, and embraces new ways of thinking that align to changes in user behaviour and technological advances.
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