Social Media and Kids - Usage and Safety

BY Ritu Shah

14 May 2024

Social media has opened a new set of challenges for parenting. Kids are being exposed to screens and social media right from birth. They have become experts in taking selfies, making videos, and posting on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

As per a survey by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, more than 37% of 10-year-olds have Facebook accounts, although the age to join any platform is a minimum of 13 years. With growing use and addiction, kids are facing many behavioural and developmental issues. However, social media has also some benefits along with many risks. Read on to know the influence it has on your kid and how you can effectively manage it.


Benefits of Social Media for Kids

  1. Digital Literacy - Kids acquire knowledge and skills that are necessary to navigate the digital space.
  2. Creative Expressions - They explore, develop and share their creative interests. 
  3. Learning - Social media can enhance their learning and collaborate on projects and assignments with their peers.
  4. Socialization - They can connect and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds. This makes them aware and they imbibe respect, tolerance, and empathy.

Networking - With most of their friends and classmates online, kids also network through social media platforms.


Risks of Social Media For Kids

  1. Addiction - With so much to do and see, kids easily get hooked. Prolonged use can make them addicted which can turn into severe behavioural issues. Some of the most seen behavioural changes are anxiety, irritability, and low self-esteem. 
  2. Cyberbullying - Kids can be involved in bullying someone online. They can also be at the receiving end of cyberbullying by their peers or even friends.
  3. Mental Health - The constant seeking of validation from peers and connections online takes a toll on mental health. 
  4. Online Predators - Without proper supervision, your kid can become a target of online predators that are looking to exploit vulnerable young minds. The kids can be influenced to share personal information, exploited emotionally, follow dangerous viral trends, or be sexually harassed.
  5. Sharing Information - Not only kids, but adults as well tend to overshare on social platforms including sensitive information like home address, current location, phone numbers, and private photos. All these can be used to breach the online and offline privacy of your kid and family.

Tips To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

As a parent, it is your responsibility to monitor and manage the social media use of your kid. You can of course grant some leeway to your teenagers, but kids under 12 should have strict digital supervision.  But the ever-changing digital landscape can be challenging for you to navigate. To make it easy for you, we have some broad social guidelines

  1. Be Aware and Educated - You must be aware of the current online scenario. This includes knowing about the social media apps that are in trend and their major positives and negatives.  
  2. Talk about It - From the very start, talk about social media and its use. Tell them about the positives and negatives of having an online presence. Keep an open conversation about which platforms your kid wants to be on or is using. Also, keep checking if any popular viral challenges are going on and if your kid seems interested in them. 
  3. Broad Guidelines - Have broad guidelines on the presence and use of social media by your kid. These should include the following:
    1. Time spent online - Excluding schoolwork, they should not be spending more than 2 hours online. This includes the time your kid is watching videos or playing online games.
    2. The content - Posting appropriate content and especially photos, personal information, and location tagging.
    3. Language - Encourage respectful and kind language while posting and commenting, and avoid mean and hurtful posts.
    4. Friends - They should not accept any friend request from a stranger. If possible, be on their friend list.
    5. Place - You can also ask your kid, especially if they just started to have an online presence, to use their social media in a common space like the living room. Restricting its use in the bedroom can be a boon since it won't interfere with their studies, activities, and sleep.
    6. Monitor their Usage - You can use monitoring tools like Google Family Link that allows you to have access to see what apps, games, and content your kid is downloading and using. You can also allow kid-friendly platforms like Youtube Kids and Messenger Kids that have age-appropriate content. However, your teens will want greater control. You will have to create a balance between freedom and safety.
    7. Limit Your Online Consumption - It is unfair and impractical to expect your kid to limit their use if you are always on your phone and scrolling all the time. Kids will emulate you, so try to restrict your online use.
    8. Encourage Other Activities - An effective way to limit the use of social media is to keep them engaged in other physical activities such as sports, music, arts, and other hobby classes. Encourage playtime with friends and neighbors.

Banning Social Media Use

It’s not practical to ban social media completely for your kids. Not only are they exposed to it everywhere, but they will also be tempted to use it in your absence. They will lose out on a lot of positives like being connected to friends, peers, and family. But most of all, they will not be able to learn to navigate the digital space and avoid risks.

In an increasingly digitally connected world, it is challenging for parents to manage the social media use and behavior of their kids. It has both benefits and risks that a child needs to learn and handle. Having honest talks with them, setting the right expectations and consequences, creating guidelines to follow, and limiting your use can help you tackle this tricky aspect. Keep emphasizing good and safe online practices for your kids to follow.