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10 online safety tips for parents with kids & teens on Facebook

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The pandemic has forced us all to use digital channels more than we did before. The most talked-about uses for internet platforms have been remote work and e-learning. However, communication be it on instant messengers like WhatsApp and social media platforms have also been a big part of the new normal.

These channels and platforms are, of course, rife with unsavoury elements that can be detrimental to all that use them but more so for children and teens. In an effort to assist parents who are now having to take up more active roles in their children’s lives what with schools being out, Facebook has published 10 tips for parents who have children making their way onto online platforms or who have kids already on social media.

The following tips are courtesy of Facebook Southern Africa’s Head of Public Policy, Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa.

Top Ten Tips for Parents

1. Start a conversation with your child early, before they are on social media

Research shows that children as young as six have access to smartphones or tablets. Start talking to your children about technology, before they hit 13 when they are allowed on social media. If your teen is on Facebook or Instagram, consider friending or following them.

2. Be mindful of age restrictions

Facebook and Instagram require everyone to be 13 years old before they can create an account (in some countries, this age limit may be higher depending on local laws).

3. Let your teen know that the same rules apply online as apply offline

Just as you might tell your child to look both ways before crossing the street or to wear a helmet while riding their bike, teach them to think before they share online or accept a friend request from a stranger. 

4. Ask your teenager to teach you

Not on social media? Or, maybe you’re interested in trying a streaming music service? If there’s a service your teen is using, and you have no idea how it works – ask them to show you. The conversation can also serve as an opportunity to talk about issues of safety, privacy and security. This way you’re empowering them to show you how something works which is probably a nice novelty for them! 

5. Identify and seize key moments

For example, when your child gets their first mobile phone, it’s a good time to set ground rules. When they are old enough to join Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, it’s a good time to talk about safe sharing. 

6. Help Them Manage Their Time Online

Try to be a good role model. The adage that children will “do as you do, not as you say” is as true online as it is offline. If you set time restrictions on when your teen can use social media or be online (for example no texting after 10:00 PM), follow the same rules.

7. Help them to check and manage their privacy settings.

Once your teen has set up a social media account, they can use tools and settings to help them manage their accounts. Facebook has privacy settings to control who can friend them, who can see their posts, and if they share details such as their location by default.  Instagram offers many flexible tools to keep teens safe online including bullying filtering, caption warnings and sensitivity screens. Teens can also restrict unwanted interactions on their profiles and easily report accounts, comments and posts for bullying.

8. Tell them to report if they see something they are concerned about

As we would in real life, we should treat each other with empathy and respect on social media.  For that reason, we’ve developed a set of policies (Community Standards) that define what is and isn’t okay to share on our platforms. There is a link on nearly every Facebook and Instagram post for reporting abuse, bullying, harassment and other issues. Our global teams work 24/7 to review things you report and remove anything that violates our Community Standards. We aim to review the majority of reports within 24 hours.

9. Make it a shared experience

You can enjoy capturing family moments with film or photo and have fun together editing, adding filters and using the augmented reality features like bunny ears! You could ask your teen what their favourite thing is to do online – perhaps it’s gaming, or talking to their friends, or sharing photos together. You could talk about what you like to do online, and this way you’re sharing technology together – a great conversation starter!

10. Trust yourself

Typically, you can adopt the same parenting style for your teens’ online activities as you do for their offline activities. If you find that your teen responds best to a negotiated agreement, create a contract that you can both sign. Or, maybe your teen just needs to know the basic rules.

Facebook safeguards

To its credit, Facebook has put a number of safeguards and made available resources on its platform, which include:

  • Facebook’s Parents Portal gives parents tips on starting online safety conversations with their children and access to expert online safety resources;
  • Facebook’s  Digital Literacy Library offering free, downloadable lesson plans on online safety for educators. 
  • Additional, Facebook has specially designed resources, guides and programs regarding teen online safety in our Safety Center. There you will also find Youth Portal, Online Wellbeing Resources and our Think Before You Share and Help a Friend in Need guides. You can also visit the Facebook Safety Centre for more information and resources. 

Lastly, Facebook launched Messenger Kids across Sub Saharan Africa last year which comes with a number of security features like, for example, monitoring your child’s activity in the app through the Parent Dashboard which is located in the parent’s Facebook app.

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