With social media such a big part of life, it is important to create a safe space for children to talk about their experiences and the simplest way to do that is to have regular conversations with your children about it. But when is the best time to start talking to them?
It is important to start the conversation about social media with your children before you even contemplate allowing them accounts. The younger the better. They will see you on your phone and computer and by having regular conversations about social media and the online world you establish trust and create a foundation for the future when you really need to have important conversations.
Talking and listening are the best tools we have in our parenting armour and by having regular conversations we normalise them which means we are not forcing any difficult conversations when children are not cooperative.
But my Child isn’t on Social Media yet
The minimum age limit for most social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter is 13, however, ExpressVPN surveyed over 2,000 children (and their parents or guardians) aged 4 to 13 in the U.S. and UK who have access to the internet. While only about a quarter of parents surveyed say that they allow their 4 to 13-year-old kids to have a social media account—29% in the U.S. and 21% in the UK—over half of their children admitted to using social media. This show just how key it is to start the conversations earlier than we think we need.
Tips for having conversations with children about social media
Keep the conversations short, but have them often. By having regular conversations we make it as normal as talking about walking the dog, visiting family members or what you plan to watch on TV.
Choose the right time to talk. We often have these conversations in the car or at the meal table or even when we are preparing food together. You need to pick when your child is most comfortable and that might be when you are walking the dog together.
Lead by example. By modelling the behaviour you are looking to see from your children in the future now, you are setting a great example. For us, that meant no tech at the table, no screens in bedrooms and screen-free family time on a regular basis. You need to establish what is important to you and work that in.
Listen – as well as talking to your children you need to give them time to listen to their answers or any questions or concerns they may have. Are your children obsessed with Minecraft or Roblox? Their wish to tell you all about it might drive you insane, but you are creating channels of communication that are invaluable in the future when you want them to talk to you about social media and any issues they might have. You want them to know their view and opinion matters and is important to you.
If you’re finding it difficult to get your child to open up to you, here are a few methods to try:
- Ask them to write it down their concern on a piece of paper, for you to read later when they’re not present.
- Ask your kids to text you about any strange occurrences they’re experiencing online.
- Make your children aware they can contact Childhelp USA or ChildLine UK if they want to speak with someone entirely separate from your family and explain that this service provides them with appropriate support and handy guidance.
Recent research by Express VPN shows that as parents we have different worries about our children online to what they have and this would make an excellent starting point for any conversation about the online experience.
Parenthood is scary without worrying about social media and I have learned that often my fears are very different to my boys’ fears and that lessons in school have equipped them very well on some of the things that worried me the most.
If I can suggest one thing that is to keep talking, keep listening and show an interest in what and how they do it.