A safe start to social media

Developing digital intelligence starts early and parents have the influence and the authority when their children are young to help them develop the skills to navigate the digital world socially, emotionally and with common sense.

Parents can model, reinforce and guide the development of the basic digital intelligence skills of respect, empathy, critical thinking, responsible behaviour and resilience which also apply to negative situations that need to be managed or mediated.

Kids mostly start using social media to play online games or watch YouTube videos and then they graduate to platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Parents often ask, “How will I know when my child is ready?”  With a social media account responsibility such as the ideas set out below.  A parent is usually the best judge of their child’s readiness for setting up social media accounts and it might help to consider if your child has a good understanding of privacy and responsibility generally.  

It’s also important that parents schedule real world free play time away from devices and social media to provide an alternative to digital connections. According to the Center for Humane Technology, ‘There’s no substitute for in-person interactions and relationship development to forge lasting social skills and a sense of relatedness.’

Common Sense Media has reviews of all the popular social media platforms that kids use, so check their advice on their website and app before agreeing to your child setting up their own accounts. 

The Internet, when used safely, can be a great space for children. It enables them to develop essential skills, socialise with others, learn new things, and play and have fun! While having established rules and ongoing communication will help to keep kids safe online, so will empowering them to Be Internet Awesome.  Use these to start the conversation about your expectations for your child’s online social media use.

Google’s Top Tips for Kids: 

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

Safe: to keep safe online, you should avoid giving out personal information such as your email address, phone number, address, or passwords

Meeting: if someone you’ve been talking to online asks to meet you in person, you should only do so with your parents’ or carer’s permission

Accepting: try to avoid opening files or messages from people you don’t know or trust because it could contain a virus or dangerous material

Reliable: people online sometimes lie about who they are, or share fake information online – so if you’re not sure if someone is telling you the truth, you should check the information with a trusted adult

Tell: if someone makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, you should tell your parents, carer, or another trusted adult

Kids Help Line provides further advice to empower parents as they set precedents for how they will manage social media use in the family:

  • 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.
  • Consider developing a media agreement together. 


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