Though most social media has a minimum age of 13, a lot of kids start asking for it before they're technically allowed to join. Of course, this makes parents worried. But the truth is, lots of young people use social media and stay safe, healthy, and connected - especially when parents are supportive.
Talking - and listening - is key. Try to get more information about what they want to use, why they want to use it, and how much they know about potential risks without seeming intrusive.
Ask your child: What app(s) do you want to use and why?
- Follow-up: Is there anything in that app that isn't great? Anything you think I'd be worried about?
When young people are saying they want to use social media to stay connected to friends, that's a good sign. If their answer is more along the lines of trying to get famous or "showing off" in some way, it's more problematic - and could lead to risky behaviour in their search for online fame. Also, it matters which platforms your child wants to use, since each one comes with its own sets of features and challenges.
Ask your child: What kinds of communication don't belong on social media?
- Follow-up: So, in general, what do you think are good things to keep in mind before you post something?
It's good for young people to think about why they want to post something, who they're posting it for, and what expectations they might have about the reactions they'll get.
Ask your child: Do you know what to do if someone is mean, harasses you for pictures, stalks you, or does anything else that makes you feel uncomfortable?
- Follow-up: Can you walk me through the way your favourite app works and what the settings are?
You and your child need to understand the app they're using in terms of who can see their posts, who can friend/contact them, and how to use the settings to be as safe as possible. This is a good time to download their favourite app, have your child walk you through how to use it, and take a look at the settings together to make sure you’re both comfortable.
Common Sense Media "Help! My kids want to use social media"