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Social media and safety

Using social media is a regular part of life for most young people. Support your child to manage the risks in their online world but still enjoy its benefits.

Mum watching teen son using computer, thinking about all the things he could be looking at or receiving

The use of social media platforms has exploded in the past decade

Things can change so fast, it's hard to keep track! Let’s catch up on some of the social media basics.

  • Young people use social media to connect with others they may or may not know offline in the ‘real world’
  • Online profiles have basic information that forms your child’s social media identity - people identify each other through their profiles and also by what they post online
  • Young children mostly start using social media to play online games; they may then graduate to platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook
  • Children as young as 6 access social media sites and their access increases with age

"Supporting your child to manage the risks on social media means they can safely enjoy all the benefits it has to offer."

Social media can be enjoyable and beneficial for your kids

Contrary to what you might have heard, risk does not always equal harm on social media. Social media can offer many benefits for your kids:

To connect with family and friends

Expand their social circle

Share their creativity through music and art

Explore different ideas

Develop and express their unique identity

Provide opportunities to learn with others

Types of social media commonly used

Social media is constantly changing and evolving. It can be hard to keep track of what platforms are most popular with your child and their friends.

While there are too many to list in just one article, you can learn about them and get up-to-date information on the eSafety website.

The types of online platforms your kids may use include:

Social media networks where people interact with others eg Facebook
Microblogging where users broadcast short messages eg Twitter, Tumblr
Media sharing where people share photos and videos eg YouTube, Instagram
Messaging apps that send SMS/texts/short videos eg Kik Messenger, Snapchat
Multi-player online games eg Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, World of Warcraft

Report Unsafe Content

If you see unsafe content online or see your child engaging with it, you can make a complaint to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Common risks on social media for kids

Some of the things you may worry your kids are exposed to include:

Access to inappropriate content such as pornography

Sexting and image-based abuse (also known as revenge porn)

Having their personal information shared

Being groomed by online predators

Being embarrassed, harassed or attacked on social media

Accidentally downloading viruses or malware

“I keep an eye on what my daughter is posting on social media by ‘friending’ her on Facebook and checking in regularly”

- Joy, parent to 13 year old

Empower yourself and your child to take steps to stay safe

Talk to them about things they can do to minimise the risks. Educate yourself about the steps you can take if things get out of hand or potentially dangerous.

Provide a clear expectation about their online behaviour

Use strong passwords and update them regularly

Encourage them not to share passwords with friends

Teach them about the consequences of sharing something online

Encourage them to connect only with people they know offline

Keep identifying information to a minimum eg do not reveal their location

Encourage them to talk with a trusted adult about online issues

Contact Police immediately if you become aware of grooming on social media

Change privacy settings so only friends and family can view their profiles and posts

Be aware of what your child is doing online and who they talk with

While social media is usually a regular part of a young person's life, it's good to know that your child is staying safe

Talking to your child about the risks and benefits of social media can help them navigate these platforms safely.

Encourage them to contact Kids Helpline for additional support, tips and strategies. They can call us, start a WebChat or email us today.

As a parent, you're not alone in supporting your child through their use of social media. If you're struggling with this, call the Parentline service in your State or Territory and talk through your options with a counsellor.

You could also visit the eSafety website to find out more about offensive content and cyberbullying and what you can do. 

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018

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