Social media junior: Do you run and hide?

Is social media for kids as bad as we think?

By Danielle Galvin

There were reports earlier in the year that tech giant Facebook was working on an Instagram for kids platform.

It would reportedly allow children under 13 to safely use the platform, with heightened controls.

It certainly raises questions about the dilemma for parents: do you let your child have an introduction and a taste of social media, or ban them from it as long as possible in a bid to keep them safe?

Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Social media expert Meg Coffey has an interesting take on it, and two differing perspectives.

“The cynical way is that they are just trying to get children on board early so they can get them into Instagram when they are of age,” she said.

But according to Instagram boss Adam Mosseri, children who are under 13 are asking to use Instagram, and perhaps this would be a way to let them use the platform, and have it be a safe space.

“The other side … if it’s inevitable that they are going to use it, let’s give them a place that we can control it, where we can control as much of it as can be controlled.

“(But) I also keep coming back to, again this is the cynicism, all of these tech guys don’t let their kids anywhere near social media or technology.

“And I go OK so you’re not letting your kids anywhere near it, but now you’re building a platform for kids? It’s an inner turmoil for I think everyone.”

Ms Coffey, who says she is not a parent but greatly sympathises with the job of raising kids in the digital age, said parents play a role.

Asking kids about who they are following, what are they engaging with, what they’re up to is critical.

She says the social media apps for kids, such as Facebook Messenger Kids, are a positive start.

She wants to believe they put the right boundaries in place so that kids can play and be involved, but they’re not bullet proof.

“It comes back to parents paying attention and having conversations, an open conversation, if something makes you feel uncomfortable come talk to me about it, don’t hide it from me,” she said.

“I think let the kids have access if you are going to be a parent that pays attention.”

Similarly, talk to your younger children about what they know about social media.

Why do they want to be on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube?

What do they know about the platforms and what do they do if they see something strange or scary or that makes them feel icky?

In her view, find an age appropriate way to chat about it, and remember each child will be different in terms of their own maturity and understanding of the digital sphere.

From time to time, most parents will be guilty of handing their child an iPad and letting them scroll or watch whatever they like.

But Ms Coffey said just keep the lines of communication open, constantly talk to them about what they are seeing.