A safer start to social media



Children are using social media before parents have spoken to them about how to use it responsibly, with 48% being exposed to it by age seven*. Here’s some advice for a safer start when your child ventures into the world of likes and shares.

When are they really old enough?

Social platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook require users to be 13+ (16 for WhatsApp), but these sites and apps cannot verify age. You can manage accessibility with parental controls, but if your child is interested in social media at an earlier age, it’s best to be open and discuss their motivations and whether it’s really the right time for them.  Remember: allowing hundreds of people to comment on their posts can affect their self-esteem, so consider whether they are ready for this.

Explore safety features first

Most social media sites have their own safety features and reporting procedures. If your child is setting up a new social media account, help them explore these settings and tools.

Some of the most important include selecting the right privacy and security options, and checking how to block or report certain users if something goes wrong online.

Be aware that others can see your location

Location services on apps can be a fun and inventive way of showing friends and family where you are. But if your child doesn’t turn off settings on certain apps, others can track their whereabouts in real time. It’s important to help your child manage their location settings so they are only sharing their location when they want to. For example, Snapchat users can switch to ‘Ghost Mode’ to avoid being tracked.

Not all followers can be trusted

Talk to your child about only accepting friend requests and other interactions from people they know and trust. Encourage them to explore settings to limit who can see their posts. It’s better that only people they know and get on with can view, like or comment on their posts and activity.

Think twice before clicking

Tell your child to always be wary of opening links that they are sent in private messages. Even if it appears to be a message from a friend, their friend’s account may have been hacked, and the link could be a scam or lead them to an inappropriate site. If in doubt, check the link URL – if you don’t recognise the website or it looks suspicious, avoid clicking on it.

Think about granny when sharing

Yes, seriously. Encourage your child to follow the ‘Granny Rule’: if you wouldn’t be happy with your granny seeing it, don’t post it! It’ll get your child thinking before sharing something they may regret – especially as it could be online forever.


This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.

*Research by YouGov Plc.  Total sample of 4189 of which 352 were parents of children aged 6 to 10.