Why It’s Important to Start Early with Social Media Education for Kids

Don’t take lightly the significance of initiating a conversation about how important it is to start early with social media education for kids, as this is an important topic for your young child. Your tween might be waiting with bated breath for their 13th birthday, the magical threshold where they are legally allowed to use services like Instagram and formally step into the realm of teenagers.

But the country’s leading physician thinks that children should not start using social media until they are much older. According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, social media can give young people a skewed picture of themselves and their relationships. Surgeon General acknowledges that keeping children away from social media is challenging because of its widespread use. However, he recommends that parents work together to delay their children’s access to accounts until they are older teenagers.

Still, kids will find a way to use the Internet no matter what. It’s shocking how many kids under the age of 13 use their parents’ email addresses and make up phony birthdays to sign up for social media accounts.

Ofcom, the British communications regulator, found in 2022 that one-third of parents of children ages 5 to 7 reported that their child used social media. There was a roughly 60% account ownership rate among kids ages 8-11.1 Your fourth grader may not be as interested in a game of kickball at recess as they are in hearing about who posted what on Instagram or TikTok last night. Yes, we realize that this sounds frightful.

To help families develop healthy and secure social media practices, the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) has released updated recommendations.

Recommendations for Secure Online Social Media

Establishing rules and expectations for teens and preteens’ use of social media is crucial because we all know they’ll be using it anyway. The A.P.A.’s updated guidelines for using social media were based on this finding. The A.P.A.’s advisory board proposed 10 changes.

The A.P.A. emphasizes early on the importance of teaching young people how to use social media effectively. “Social media is neither inherently harmful nor beneficial to our youth,” A.P.A. President Thema Bryant, Ph.D. said in a press statement. Youth need training in the safe and healthy use of social media in the same way that we demand training for obtaining a driver’s license.

The American Psychological Association recommends, among other things, that children’s social media use be adjusted for their age and maturity. Adults should keep a close eye on the activity of younger children and have open conversations with them about the things they view. Limiting and monitoring preteen and adolescent users for indicators of problematic social media use that may interfere with daily routines, sleep, or physical exercise is also important.

“We hope these recommendations will be helpful as we all try to keep pace with the rapidly shifting social media ecosystem,” says APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., in the press release. The American Psychological Association maintains that additional funding for studies on the effects of social media on today’s youth is necessary.

Social media has several benefits for children.

Having children of the appropriate age and with parental permission communicate with their classmates on social media certainly has its advantages. The American Psychological Association has admitted there may be advantages, such as fostering positive relationships.

Kids can get ideas and practice their own creativity on social media sites like Instagram. However, parents also need to be mindful of the dangers of cyberbullying and other improper materials. Particularly young children may conduct themselves irresponsibly on the internet since they don’t fully understand the implications of their behavior. The popular photo-sharing app is aware of and prepared for these dangers.

Instagram has introduced many safety features over the years to make the platform more kid- and teen-friendly. Recent additions include a centralized hub for parental teaching and supervision tools, automated private accounts for children, a “Take a Break” function to prevent compulsive browsing, and more.

Instagram’s director of engineering, Eddie Ruvinsky, argues that monitoring isn’t the silver bullet. Having trust and an open line of communication about their actions is crucial.

If you want to help your child develop healthy social media habits, here are some suggestions to get you going.

Get the Social Media Conversation Started Right Away

Expert and author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S., who collaborated with Instagram to develop parental safety tips, advises parents to begin the dialogue about social media early on. Many children begin utilizing the internet and a variety of websites well before they join social media. Parents must have dialogues about social media since, in my experience, kids aren’t learning about Instagram and other applications from their parents but rather from friends, peers, older siblings, and other influencers.

Create a Strategy

“I encourage coming from a place of curiosity and asking open-ended questions to help children identify why they want to join Instagram, what they think a positive experience would look like for them, and who they could turn to if something feels uncomfortable and doesn’t go as planned,” says Homayoun. By doing so, they can plan ahead to determine what makes for a satisfying digital encounter from the user’s perspective. Focus on the three S’s (successful self-regulation, positive social development, and overall safety) as you organize your talk.

Protect Individuality

Users often overlook the option to make one’s Instagram account private. When you set your account to “private,” only people you allow may see your posts, comments, and likes. The safety of your child’s private data may be improved in this way. Take an example from Dan Zigmond, Instagram’s former director of analytics, who insisted that his children keep their accounts private and keep track of every follower individually.

Insist on Proper Conduct When Using Social Media

A child’s self-esteem might take a hit if they are the recipient or author of negative remarks on social media. Use the Instagram Parent Guide’s suggested tools to converse with your child about appropriate behavior on social media. For instance, you can use the app’s filters to remove swear words or other improper language from your posts.

Limit Your Time

Tweens, whose sense of responsibility is still maturing, often spend inordinate amounts of time online. Figure out together how much time each day, perhaps 15 or 60 minutes, is reasonable to spend using apps. Instagram also has an activity dashboard where you can disable notifications, set daily usage limits, and more.

Instill Responsibility in Children

Cyberbullying occurs at an alarmingly high rate today. According to the most recent C.D.C. Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in sixteen high school students reported experiencing cyberbullying in the preceding year. Students who identify as women or members of the LGBTQ+ community make up a larger portion of this group.

The good news is that Instagram gives its users the power to combat bullying by deleting abusive posts, reporting offensive conduct, and blocking offenders. Things that happen online may have an impact on how people feel in real life, and that’s something I really want my son to understand. That should be a major factor in kids’ behavior while using the internet.

Put Your Words into Action

Kids, as you well know, soak up information like a sponge. By establishing a good example of how you use social media, you may give your kids a positive and motivating introduction to the world of online communication.

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