A 2020 study by the Pew Research Center discovered that many of us are concerned about how to keep children safe on the internet, particularly on social media.
For example the study found that 71% of parents of a child age 11 or under are concerned their child has too much screen time. Does that sound familiar? It does to me for sure. The study also found that 66% of parents think parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with 21% blaming social media in general.
I’ve been a parent now for 27 years and I think it’s fair to say that parenting generally certainly feels like it has changed a great deal. The internet wasn’t a feature of our lives when either of my children were born – I didn’t have the luxury of a smartphone for company during night feeds for one thing – and in a way I’m glad that I was able to enjoy a few years at least of having kids without internet safety to worry about.
On the other hand though I feel sometimes that not being a digital native puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping my kids save online. I don’t have that innate understanding of the risks and responsibilities that a younger generation might, and as a result I sometimes feel lost and in desperate need of online safety tips.
So how dangerous really is it for our children to be using the internet and social media and what can we do about it? Undeniably the risks exist – from cyber stalking and online bullying through to the indirect danger posed to our children’s self-esteem and body image. Social media sites like Facebook impose age limits for a reason, but there are many kids who will set up accounts even when they are underage, and the policing of this is far from satisfactory.
You may decide as a parent that you want them to have access to some social media, but that you want to have a bit more control over it, to be able to police it yourself and not rely on the sites themselves to take the right precautions. Like with any aspect of parenting it comes down to personal choice and doing what feels right for your family.
You are also completely within your rights as a parent to change your mind – if for example you set limits on screen time or social media usage but then on reflection feel like it’s too cautious or not cautious enough, you can change the limits or your approach as a family. The internet is such a relatively new part of our lives that it feels natural that our understanding of it and our boundaries are going to change as we learn and grown with it.
I’d be interested to hear about how you feel as a parent, and whether or not you feel well equipped in terms of your internet safety knowledge to feel like your children are safe online. Could you do with more support? Have there been any particular resources you’ve found useful? Leave a comment and let me know!