Teach your kids to be safe on social networks: don’t rely on safe sites, settings, banning and blocking

socialmediapicTeaching kids to be safe on social networks is something that all parents need to start doing as soon as their kids show an interest in any online hangout. Banning them from sites or thinking you have it covered with strict privacy settings is not however, the way to instil in them safe social networking skills.

Many believe certain sites are safe because they require  an email address to set up an account.  They are safe because you have an administrator who will answer your concerns. They are safe because they are aimed at certain age groups only. They are safe because you can befriend your child and are therefore privy to everything they do and say. They are safe because you have no way of interacting with more than one person at a time. Whilst some sites certainly do have these ‘safer’ elements, here is the big tip….

No online sites are safe. There can only ever be safe users

If we teach our kids that any site is safe, thus giving ourselves and them a false sense of security, then we are much more likely to be putting them at risk. We feel protected by settings rather than concentrating on how they are interacting and what information they are giving out. Many parents are unaware just how many sites there are out there and are limiting their rules to the more well known sites. I have known of many kids on Instagram, Kik and Qooh.Me,  but their parents have not allowed them Facebook.

Certainly there are some sites and apps that get kids into more trouble than others. There are some that leave the door open far wider for bullies and predators and for kids to do damage to their own digital footprint. I wrote recently about, Ask.Fm and similar sites and how I believe that they are more dangerous for their exposure to anonymous users. There are plenty of sites like this. Certainly keep your kids off these sites that offer no positive interaction or real connection, but be sure to be involved in the other sites they are on, particularly when they are young, so you can help them learn these new skills. Even kids on ‘safe for yong people’ sites like Moshi Monsters can get into trouble if not guided properly and continually monitored.

Just as we can no longer simply advocate keeping the computer in a central location and thinking you have it covered, other ‘safety’ measures such as taking the modem with you to work so your kids cant get online, is in my opinion, also unrealistic and unwise. I know my kids are safe from unsuitable content when at home because I have a cybersafe modem installed, but this does not mean that they won’t see the content when they are at a friends house.

Instead of blocking and banning, we need to guide, support and educate.


Teach your kids that what goes online stays online.

Teach your kids about the sorts of information they should or should not be giving out.

Teach your kids to understand the power of the written word as both a positive and negative force

Teach them that liking or commenting on a photo with a nasty caption makes them just as liable as the creator when it is bought to the attention of the teacher, principal, boss or other parent.

Teach them that sending any photo can be screen saved and forwarded on, even if they are told it will delete in seconds.

Teach them that just because you as the parent may not know they are hanging out on a site, there is a good chance their aunty, friends mum, school teacher, principal or boss does…and they may well be watching.

Already that is too much information for us to simply tell them. We need to help them use these sites, pick them up on these points when they push the boundaries and bring to their attention the mistakes when we see them. We need to do this in the hope that they can learn and build up enough skill and understanding so that these points become second nature when they are older and we no longer have the same sorts of controls.

We may help our kids to buy a safer car with optional extras, however we still wouldn’t let them drive it without lessons and practise.

Once again, like most things parenting, it takes a little education, an understanding of your childs abilities and a pretty big dose of common sense.

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This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Deb @ home life simplified

    Fantastic post, will be sharing today. This is such a good point as it is important they learn the how’s and whys rather than rely on being protected. This goes for online AND real life living

    1. Martine

      Thankyou so much Deb and thanks for sharing. And yes it certainly does go for real life as well.

  2. Fiona @ Imogen's Angels

    Great post, it’s is such a tough road raising teens in the social overload era, where everything is available to share at the click of a button. I agree it’s all about the teaching, sharing and showing them the way from an early age.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Fiona, and certainly starting early does help their understanding.

  3. Eleise

    Another great article so thanks 🙂 We try this approach but man it is hard, I just want to ban everything. Ask FM is such a scary and negative experience for kids, I wish they wouldn’t yield to peer pressure to come on there. Thanks for a talking point with the kids.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Eleise. I agree it is very hard. I still think it is ok to ban things, particularly when they are young and dont have the skills or maturity to deal with it, I just dont think we can rely on this. I have told my kids they are not to be on ASk Fm and but I had to show them some examples of why I didnt like it and how many kids werent having a good time on there. It is always an ongoing challenge as they get older and are exposed to so much more.

  4. Tegan

    My partner and I were talking about this recently. His idea is that we just need to trust that when our son is old enough to access these kinds of sites he will do the right thing. I completely disagree, as a child of the technology age I know exactly what kind of people there are on chat sites. I was lucky, not everyone is.

    1. Martine

      Thansk Tegan. I have to say we would like to think that our kids would do the right thing but we really cant expect them to handle what is sometimes so overwhelmingly beyond them…and many adults for that matter. I think it is too much of a risk to take, so much better to keep communication open about as long as you can.

  5. Emily @ Have a laugh on me

    We have blocked a lot of things on the iPads in case our kids, oldest just 5.5 stumble upon something, She already knows what FB is a BLOG is – but not really, has just heard the terms! Another great article for those with children in that age bracket 🙂

    1. Martine

      Thanks Emily. Absolutely when kids are young you should be blocking things, particularly content. As I said I have a lot of things blocked at home but as my kids are older I know their internet browsing is not limited to our home.

  6. It seriously scares me, with how much there already is in the way if social media, what types of things there will be when my girls are at the age to start wanting to be using it! Definitely got g to start teaching them these lessons from an early age!

    1. Martine

      True Kylez, I think even by having an awareness and a constant conversation is a good way to start.

  7. Seana

    I am so relueved that my kids don’t seem to know about most of the sites you mention. Shhhhh…. don’t tell. Agree wholeheartedly with your ideas. Simple, not easy though. I guess it’s all part of being fully present in the lives of the kids and keeping an eye out.

    1. Martine

      Promise I wont tell Seana…but others may very well! x

  8. Lydia C. Lee

    I really love these posts – it’s such a mine field, and even as adults we don’t really know where it’s all heading…

    1. Martine

      Thanks Lydia, it is a minefield but we just gotta do what we can do 🙂

  9. Fabulous tips Martine. I’m going to remember + repeat ‘there are no safe online sites only safe users’.

    1. Martine

      A very good mantra Amanda!

  10. Marleisa

    Great post – as a teacher we are starting to talk about how early we need to start teaching these skills. They really are just as important as how we teach them how to be a good friend and how to work in a small group!

    1. Martine

      Absolutely…I hope parents can help out the teachers who already seem to have so much to do!

  11. Leanne Winter

    Hi Martine, as I began reading this post I was thinking – Oh well I’m fine, the only interactive site my oldest son uses is Moshi Monsters – then kept reading and it was – ok, even Moshi M not safe, well that’s ok ’cause we keep the PC in the kitchen where I can watch everything – kept reading and -oh dear, now even that’s not good enough. It’s quite frightening trying to blindly feel our way through this hostile and unchartered territory. Thanks so much for the informative article. I’m going to print it out and stick it on the fridge as a constant reminder to myself to keep the dialogue with the my sons going on how to be responsible and safe internet users.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Leanne. I guess it is also about parents not having a false sense of security when it comes to choosing games and sites. Certainly Moshi Monsters has great settings but it doesn’t mean bullying doesn’t occur. Or kids say things that they shouldn’t. These things must be taught. When kids are young, putting the computer in the middle of the room may well be ok, but when they start having portable devices and visiting friends, it is no longer relevant. But you are right….it is the ongoing dialogue that we must always keep up.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Alicia 🙂

  12. Lisa Wood

    Our boys have learnt that they need to be extra careful when being online…..our oldest two are in the Navy and they have their Facebook accounts looked over by their officers.
    Our third son {who is 14} learnt about online bullying when it happened to him, and he also has two uncles who are watching what he says!!
    Our younger two are not online yet, but they have heard our talks about being careful with what to say and what not to say….now days online world crosses over to real life world and one needs to realise that what they say has impact on many.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Lisa. I imagine it is an ongoing challenge for the army to keep on top of these things as well! And having family members keeping an eye out is always helpful. So true that the impact of one persons actions can now have an effect on so many.

  13. Shelley

    Excellent post! My daughter is nearly 3 but I have already started to wonder how I should cope with these things as she grows up. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Shelley. And yes 3 sounds young but it will all be upon you before you know it!


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