The Dangers of Social Media for Children Under 6

Social media is everywhere – most of us use it for at least ten minutes a day, if not more. What’s even more terrifying is that my 5 year old has a better understanding of social media than I do. Considering the way technology is developing and expanding, it makes sense to teach children about how to use social media when they’re young so that they can use it responsibly. Here are some things to consider when approaching the topic of social media.

The Permanency of the Internet

Once something is posted online, it will stay there forever. Although it is possible to remove photos and messages that we have posted online, they will never truly disappear. Somebody may have taken a screenshot of them, or they may already be in Google’s Archives.

Help your children understand that what they post will be there forever and this may have consequences. Use the example of folding a piece of paper. No matter how much you smooth it out – the marks will always be there. The same applies to what they post online.

Bullying Cannot Be Ignored

Bullying used to happen simply in the schoolyard, but now it has spread to the world of social media. People seem to be a lot more confident and cruel behind the safety of their keyboard. Encourage your children to understand that they should tell you if they see someone being bullied, or if they themselves are being bullied. This may come in any form – unwanted comments, tagging or posting pictures without consent. Just let them know that you are there for them.

Online Safety

We teach our children about stranger danger, yet sometimes we fail to mention that this extends to the online world as well. Unless we personally know who we are talking to, they could be anyone and there are a lot of people out there who are not as honest and kind as we would like them to be.

Ensure that you teach your child to take care when communicating online and to avoid connecting with people that they don’t know. Make sure to tell them that under any circumstances, they should not send photos of themselves or agree to meet-up with any strangers they encounter online.

Everything Has Its Limit

Too much screen time isn’t healthy. It can hurt eyes, posture and interest in other activities. Establish limits with your child – let them use it for a set time each day. As they grow, these limits will change, but will also help to set the basis for a healthy relationship between technology and face-to-face interactions.

There are phone applications that can regulate these things, as well as filters that can be installed so as to make sure that what your child views is age-appropriate.

Take It Slow

Social media isn’t all bad. It can have many positive effects for children –developing their social skills, introducing them to a new world and helping them interact with peers. However, these may also be done in the offline world, so try not to introduce them to social media too early. Instead, try socialising them with other children. Try to set up play dates with other children in your child’s Early Learning Centre. At ToBeMe, we encourage families to get together on the weekend to cement their friendships and relationships. Not only is this good for children, but it allows parents to socialise with their children’s friends families. This helps to create lifelong friendships.

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