How should parents and schools handle social media for kids?

How should parents and schools handle social media for kids?

Kids these days have a very different experience of growing up.

The previous generation had to get on the phone or get on their bikes if they wanted to interact with one another outside of school hours. But the current crop of young people is constantly connected, thanks to the various social media platforms lingering in the ether.

In theory, this should be a good thing. There are lots of nice ways in which kids could use the internet. They could engage in joyous conversations via their messaging apps, broaden their horizons by researching topics online, or experience entertaining stories through the plethora of films, TV episodes, radio shows, podcasts, games and books that the internet has made instantly available.

However, although youngsters around the globe do take part in all those admirable activities, the digital age also creates opportunities for young people to have negative experiences. If I asked you to imagine bad things that might happen to kids online, your mind would probably jump to something like cyber-bullying, grooming, or exposure to adult materials. If used the wrong way, the online realm can be something of a Pandora’s Box for young people.

So, what can we do about it?

On the devices in your home, it is probably easy to set up parental controls, and in doing so you can limit the sites your children can visit. This way, you can try and stop your kids from stumbling onto porn or violent material. But even that’s not a perfect solution.

After all, a smart enough kid could work their way around parental controls. Plus, your parental controls at home hold no sway when your child is on someone else’s tablet in someone else’s house. Also, there is an argument to be made that censoring what your child sees is a slippery slope to start on. And, on top of that, your parental controls probably wouldn’t stop your child from having access messaging apps, which any kid from their class could distort into an arena of online bullying.

If parental controls aren’t the answer, then what is? A recent article on the BBC website explained that schools have a large part to play in preparing children for social media and protecting them from its potential evils. As the BBC explains, Anne Longfield (England’s children’s commissioner) has decided that online education should be a priority for schools. She is working with schools to develop a programme that will educate and inform young people about social media and how best to manage it.

Here at Delivered Social, we think that sounds like a great idea.

We have given presentations at schools about social media before, but an hour of waffle from an external speaker isn’t really enough to teach kids a whole new set of safeguards and best practices. Social media awareness and online behaviour should be a core part of the syllabus. Protecting these young people from negative experiences is just as important as teaching them maths and science, isn’t it?

Here’s hoping that the children’s commissioner and the schools she’s working with come up with something good, which can protect young people and create a safer environment for them…

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