Can we, as parents, ever truly know what our kids are doing on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or Twitter, or any of the countless other social media sites currently out there? I had a really interesting week just before school broke up, as both a teacher and a parent, and thought I’d share my findings with other parents. I set my year 11 class a group discussion task on the advantages and disadvantages of social media sites, and wow, I learned a lot!
I’m hoping this article with be useful to other parents and guardians who, like me, are totally not “down with the kids” when it comes to the wonders of social networking.
Do You Know Whether Your Child Actually Has a Facebook Account?
According to my pupils, it seems loads of kids open Facebook accounts without their parents even knowing about it. In actual fact, every group of pupils I listened to had at least one member amongst them who admitted they’d opened an account without letting their parents know.
Technically, the minimum age for setting up a Facebook account is 13, but it is, apparently, commonplace for children in primary school to have their own accounts. Although you’d be forgiven for assuming your 11-year-old doesn’t have an account, this may not, in actual fact be the case, so don’t dismiss this idea just because they haven’t yet started secondary school.
Should you ask your child outright whether they have a Facebook account? To be honest, having spoken to the year 11 kids, it seems many children don’t tell their parents they have opened a Facebook account merely because they just don’t think parents know, worry or care about Facebook, so see telling them as pointless. This kind of suggests kids would be open about having an account if asked!
If, however, you doubt your child will admit to having an account for whatever reason, you can check the search history on the computer(s) they use. Although it’s fairly simple to delete a computer’s history, it’s unlikely your child (or children) will remember to do this every time they use the computer (if they’re trying to hide what they’re looking at online),especially if they use it regularly.
There is No Minimum Age On Facebook
The minimum age to have a Facebook account is supposed to be 13, but no proof of age is required to create an account.
Consequently, if someone under the age of 13 wants to open an account, they simply need to change the year of their birth when setting up the account – it’s as easy as that!
A point I found interesting during the discussion was that the majority of pupils strongly believe Facebook isn’t suitable for younger people, believing that pupils should at least be in secondary school before they create an account.
Most year 11 pupils believed the newsfeeds that appear on Facebook walls are unacceptable for younger users to view, with these including videos and images. It wasn’t pornography the year 11 pupils were referring to, but, for example, images of extreme violence and terrorism from the news that apparently pop up without any rhyme or reason, and Facebook do not remove quickly despite user requests to block such material.
Another reason the year 11 pupils believed children shouldn’t have Facebook accounts at a young age is because of their immaturity when it comes to deciding what they should and shouldn’t share with the world. Although this is arguably the most obvious point, it was interesting to hear the older pupils recognise this. Some pupils admitted they felt “mortified” reading back over the posts they’d added when younger and wished they’d opened their accounts a little older.
The Troublesome Privacy Settings
It is possible to make your Facebook account “private”, and it is possible, in theory, to control how open and public you wish your picture and comments to be.
However, the personalization you make to these privacy settings is far from permanent.
Whenever Facebook chooses to “update” or “reset” itself (which they have total control over, although this can be without warning and as regularly as they wish), all the privacy settings of every account are reset too, amending them back to the original, minimal privacy setting.
When opening an account a tutorial on privacy settings is available, but it’s fairly easy to not notice this is the excitement of opening and personalising your account, so make sure you keep an eye out for it!
The best piece of advice I can give is to make sure you regularly check up on your privacy settings – once a week wouldn’t be too many times!
The Horrendous Problem of Cyber-Bullying
It is blatantly obvious that bullying has adapted with the times, and in its newest form is cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is the given term for any type of bullying that takes place in the form of emails, text messages or comments or messages on social media sites.
Cyber-bullying is a disgusting, evolved type of bullying, but, luckily, with this form of bullying there is the benefit that anything and everything typed, even when deleted, on any type of social networking site is never completely deleted, and can always be retrieved by higher powers. Subsequently, evidence can always be complied against the cyber-bully, so their crime (which cyber-bullying actually is) can be easier to prove.
Cyber-bullying can be really difficult to spot. Traditional indications that a child may be suffering from being bullied can include mood swings, depression, appetite change, withdrawal and reluctance to attend school, or even go outside anywhere. Additional to these, with regards to cyber-bullying, keep a look out as well for jumpiness, anxiety or nervous responses when their phone beeps.
This post was written by Becky Stretton, author of the parenting blog, Green Duo. Visit her blog to read all about Becky, her husband Steve, their new baby daughter Phoebe-Rae and all their adventures in their green, eco-friendly household.