If you had to count the number of social media platforms your teen uses, I wonder what the score would be? 2, 5 or maybe even more? Well, surprisingly research from our Aussie eSafety Commissioner shows that Aussie kids use an average of 4 social media services. I bet you thought it would be more. I did! So, maybe this means we don’t need to worry too much about joining and understanding these platforms? Surely their skills must be quite polished if there are only using four platforms? Wrong!! Being a good digital parent means we need to take the time to understand our kids’ digital world – even when we think they have a handle on it.
My Top Tip Ever – Get Involved
Over the last 12 years in my job as Cybermum, I’ve shared an abundance of advice. But if I had to pick the most important piece it is this – the absolute best way to keep your kids safe online is to commit to understanding your kids’ online world, particularly when they are starting out on their digital journey. So, if they are on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok then you need to sign up, and spend time understanding how it works. If they love Minecraft, Fortnite or Among Us – then you now do too! I’m sure you’re figuring out the pattern by now…
Getting Involved Means You’ll Earn Some Tech Cred
I’m not sure how it works for you but one thing that does NOT work for me is listening to advice from someone who has no relevant experience. To be honest, it really grinds my gears!! So, isn’t it logical that our teens would feel the same? I honestly don’t think we can expect them to take advice from us about online safety if we have no lived experience. In my opinion, experience = credibility.
So, when you join Snapchat or Instagram not only are you learning about your child’s digital life but you’re also developing credibility which may just be the most important ingredient in keeping your kids safe online. Because if and when your kids find themselves in tricky situation online, they will be far more likely to come to you with a problem if they know you understand how it all works.
Don’t Forget – You’re The Role Model
Taylor Swift fandom is massive in Australia right now. With many taking days off work to secure tickets to her upcoming shows and a hot movie release, you’d be hard pressed to find many young girls who don’t think she is the ‘bees knees’. And if your sons are made keen Le Bron, Tom Brady or Nathan Cleary fans then they wouldn’t be alone – my sons are all in awe of these spectacular athletes. But despite all the hype and the potential influence from these celebrities, I need to remind you of one very important thing – you are the most important role model for your kids. You hold the greatest influence in their decision making and value setting.
If your kids see you using the same platforms they use in a healthy, balanced way – then you really have a tonne of ability to help them develop positive digital habits. Your ‘tech cred’ will mean they are even more likely to pick up on your habits. So, make sure you have a healthy mix of digital and non-digital activities into your life. Consider:
- Regular screen-free time in your day
- Having a technology free hour (or two) before bed
- Banning phones from the dinner table
- Putting your phone on silent to minimise distractions
- Being ‘all in’ when you are talking to your kids and don’t pick up your phone. Give them your undivided attention!
Remember, they are watching and learning!!
So, Do you Really Need To Join Snapchat?
Now, I don’t want to force you to do anything that you are not comfortable with, but I do want you to understand how best to support your kids in their digital life. To me, it’s quite simple. Whatever platform your kids spend the bulk of their time online then that’s where you need to spend your time too. You’ll develop credibility which means they are more likely to come to you if they have an issue online. It also gives you an opportunity to model health digital habits which can be really powerful. So, if your kids use Snapchat then yes – you need to join!!! All the ‘know-how’ you amass while using it will absolutely help make you a great digital parent.
Till next time