Is it every possible for us as parents to ever really know what our children are doing on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter? Do we, as an older generation, even know enough about these sites to police what are kids are up to anyway?
I had a somewhat enlightening week recently, just before school broke up, as both a parents and a teacher, which has provided me great inspiration for writing this article. I asked my year 10 class to form groups for a speaking and listening discussion task on the pros and cons of social networking sites: enlightening, interesting and, at times, shocking!
I’m hoping this may be a little useful to other parents who, like me, are totally not exactly 100% au fait with the wondrous realms and endless minefields of Facebook.
Does Your Child Have a Facebook Account, and Are You Aware This?
According to my year 10 class, it appears tonnes of children create Facebook accounts without their parents being aware of this. This is such a common occurrence that in every group of pupils I listened to there was at least one member who revealed they’d set up an account without informing their parents.
Despite the minimum age for having a Facebook account is 13, it is, apparently, common practice for children younger than this, even of primary school ages, to have created their own accounts, often without their parents’ knowledge. Consequently, it would be remiss for parents to assume their children haven’t got an account simply because they haven’t yet started high school yet.
Is the best approach to finding out whether your child has an account to ask them directly? To be honest, after listening to the discussions of my 10 pupils, it seems many children don’t inform their parents that they have opened a Facebook account simply because they don’t believe their parents know much about Facebook, and aren’t aware of the concerns they may have. This sort of implies many children would be honest about having an account if asked!
However, if you have your doubts that your child would be honest about having an account for whatever reason, you can always monitor the search history of their computer(s). Admittedly, it’s a simple task to delete a computer’s search history, but it’s highly unlikely your child would remember to delete if every time they use the computer (if they really were trying to conceal what sites they were on online), especially if they use a computer on a daily basis.
The Ignored Minimum Age For a Facebook Account
Although to have your own Facebook account you’re supposed to be a minimum of 13 years old, no actual evidence of age is necessary to open an account.
Therefore, if someone under 13 years old wishes to create their own Facebook account, they need only to change their birth year when completing the initial information form, and they’ll never be probed further or questioned on this information again!
A really interesting point highlighted during the discussion was my year 10’s believes that Facebook isn’t at all suitable for younger children, and their belief that users should at least be in high school before they open their own account.
Every year 10 pupil believed the newsfeeds that pop up on users’ walls can be seriously inappropriate for younger users to see, including some videos and images. It wasn’t pornography the year 10s were alluding to, but, for example, images of extreme violence and terrorism from news stories that can appear without reason, some of which Facebook don’t remove quickly, despite requests from users to block such things.
A reason further reason the year 10 pupils believed children shouldn’t have Facebook accounts too young is because of their immaturity when it comes to posting, and their Despite this being the most obvious concern about young people using Facebook, it was interesting to listen to the older pupils recognising and discussing this. Most pupils admitted they felt deeply embarrassed when reading over some posts they’d added when young, and sincerely regretted they’d opened accounts so young.
The Troublesome Privacy Settings
It’s definitely possible to set your Facebook account up as “private”, and it’s also possible, technically anyway, to have control over how open and public you wish your photos, posts and comments to be.
However, the personalisation you make to your privacy settings are anything but permanent.
Whenever Facebook decides to “update” or “reset” itself (which they have absolute control over, and this can be without warning and as often as they want), the privacy settings of every user’s account are reset as well, resetting them back to the original setting of minimal privacy.
There is a tutorial available to watch when you open an account, but this is fairly easy to miss with the excitement of opening your account and personalising it, so I’d recommend definitely making sure you look out for this!
Check your privacy settings as often as you can – weekly if not daily!
The Horrendous Problem of Cyber-Bullying
It’s crystal clear to me as a teacher that bullying has changed with the times and rise in use of technology by young people today, and cyber-bullying has become a massive issue in schools. Cyber-bullying is the label given to any type of bullying that occurs in the form of emails, text messages or comments or messages on social networking sites.
Although a despicable type of bullying, there is the advantage that everything written down, even after being deleted, on any type of social media is never truly lost; there are ways and means of everything being retrieved. Consequently, evidence can be collected against the cyber-bully, rendering it easier to prove the crime (which cyber-bullying actually is) and, ultimately, punish the perpetrator.
Cyber-bullying can, unfortunately, be more cruel and assiduous than other, perhaps traditional forms of bullying. While physical or emotional bullying usually ends when the victim leaves school or sets foot in their own home, cyber-bullying can cross boundaries into a child’s supposed safe areas through various types of technology, and so can feel inescapable to the victims, and they can feel incredibly vulnerable as a result.
It’s difficult to recognise if your child is a victim of cyber-bullying. Characteristic signs that a child is being bullied can involve mood swings, anxiety, depression, appetite change, isolation and unwillingness to go to school, or even outside at all. With cyber-bullying, look out as well for nervousness or negative reactions when their mobile phone beeps.
This post was written by Becky Stretton, author of the parenting blog, Green Duo. Visit her blog to read all about Becky, her husband Steve, their new baby daughter Phoebe-Rae and all their adventures in their green, eco-friendly household.