5 Things to consider before creating their social account
Advice for Parents & Carers
Get advice on how to decide whether your child is ready to interact with others online.
Connecting online with others can offer children and young people with SEND an opportunity to find their tribe online and share their own lived experiences. However, from our research, we know that they are more at risk of experiencing online issues. So, if your child is asking to create their first social media account, you may have mixed feelings about saying yes or no.
Before you make a decision, here are 5 things to consider:
Are they old enough to use the app?
Check the minimum age of the app they’d like to use. You’ll find that the minimum age of most apps is 13 years old. However, it’s estimated that half of UK 11-12-year-olds have access to their own accounts.
If your child’s learning disability makes it hard for them to understand how to deal with potential risks, consider redirecting their interest towards safer social apps made for children under 13. Just like using training wheels on a bike, this will give them the time to develop online communication skills in a safe space.
Why do they want to create an account?
Ask them why they’d like to connect with others online.
- Is it because they find it hard to talk to people face-to-face?
- Are they feeling isolated or lonely?
- Do they find it easier to communicate by text or video?
- Do they have physical barriers that make it harder to get out and make friends?
- Do they want to keep in touch with friends that may live far away?
- Is it because they feel the pressure to do what other children are doing at their age?
- Are they looking to raise awareness of a good cause?
- Do they want to chat with others while gaming online?
- Are they keen to share their talents with others?
- Do they want to connect with their friends like everyone else?
Getting a better understanding of the reasons why they want an account will help you give them the right support and guidance if you decide to say yes.
Are they well prepared for the risks they may face?
Our research shows that children and young people with SEND are more likely to experience risks online. One way to think about those risks is to consider who they will be coming into contact with – and what those potential strangers may ask of your child. Our research suggests these risks include sexting under pressure, coercion, blackmail or threats to send more images. Your child also may not recognise when an apparent friend is manipulating them.
Before letting your child open a social media account, consider whether they have the ability to understand the risks they may be exposed to and learn what steps to take to deal with them, and what you will be able to do to support them. Although they may be old enough to have a social account, they may lack the emotional maturity and ability to deal with these potential risks. Spending time going through ‘what if’ scenarios could help them better prepare to deal with these issues.
Would they benefit from using social apps made for children?
If your child is eager to start talking to others online but you don’t think they’re quite ready for the more popular social media apps, opt for ones made for children. Apps like Kudos and others are designed for children with safety features built-in to help them learn how to communicate with each other online in a safe environment.
Steering them towards these apps will teach them how to navigate the social word safely. Once you feel they are confident enough, you can decide if they are ready to use the more popular apps.
What do they plan to post and share?
Get your child thinking about what they plan to post online and what this says about them. Make sure they’re aware that things they post will build up a digital snapshot of who they are. So, it’s important to be selective about the information they share with others. Getting them to understand the difference between what is private and public, how apps may use the data they share, and what’s appropriate behaviour online will help minimise online risks they may face.
Having meaningful conversations to get them ready to connect onlineWhat you will learnHow to prepare them to connect with others online.5 minute read