Pros and cons of children using social networks

Young people are prolific in their use of social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp are all ways in which they connect with friends, make new ones and chat with family members.

Recent studies show more than half of children have used an online social network by the age of 10 – but are parents confident enough to help youngsters online and do they know the pros and cons of social networks?Parents rightly take an interest in their child’s behaviour and it’s really important to teach children to stay safe and be respectful to others on the internet. Social media sites such as Pinterest, Vine and Blackberry messenger, provide young people with a great platform to interact, learn new things and to build friendships – but there are also things parents need to be aware of.

More than half of children have used an online social network by age 10.

If your child starts to use social networking sites then it’s important that you guide them through their first few times online and to do this you need to understand why they want to use these sites. Just as you teach your child to ride a bike or cross the road – it’s also essential they learn how to work their way around the internet in a safe way – to do this you can:

1. Set boundaries for how long your child can spend online and what they can do.

2. Check privacy settings on social media and websites.

3. Adjust parental controls to suit your child’s age and maturity.

4. Talk to your child about what they post and teach them not to share personal information like phone numbers or addresses.

All of these things should help minimise the risk of potential hazards including cyberbullying, strangers talking to children and exposure to inappropriate content. It’s important to tell your child that strangers can pop up anywhere online: email, instant messenger, social networking sites or online games. Your child may also feel like they know someone well, even if they’ve only played a game with them online. So remember to talk to them about what they share with people and how to report abuse and block people on websites if they want to.

In the mind of a teenager the online world is just the same as the offline world – we need to remember that to this generation social networks are a part of everyday life, they’ve never known anything different. Children will constantly be interacting with people by messaging their friends, sharing images and playing games – which is why we need to ensure we do everything we can keep children safe online as much as offline.

For further tips on how to keep your child safe online, the NSPCC has developed a series of checklists for parents

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