Social Media

Social Media apps your primary children should not be accessing.

At our recent Cyber Safety sessions at the primary campus, our visiting expert, Susan McLean spoke to the children in Years Three to Six about keeping safe while using the internet. It was clear during the discussions that many of these students (approximately 50%) have social media apps downloaded on their personal devices or use these apps or social media sites on their parents’ devices. This information was surprising to us because many popular social networking sites and apps are age restricted and should not be used by anyone under the age of thirteen.

The minimum age to open an account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Tumblr and Pinterest is 13. Even YouTube requires account holders to be 18 but a 13 year old can sign up with parental permission.

Why is this so? Why do we strongly recommend that primary children do NOT use social media sites?

  • Primary aged children are not developmentally mature enough to successfully manage the inappropriate online interactions that can arise in social networking, such as cyber bullying, pornography and online predators. Research has shown that it takes twelve years for children to develop the ability to engage in ethical thinking. Before the age of 12 children do not fully understand the impact of words and actions nor do they realise the impact viewing inappropriate material can have on them. Children do not have life experience or emotional maturity to make the wise decisions that are necessary when using online social media.
  • Lying is wrong. Children should not lie about their age to set up an account. Even though telling a white lie seems harmless enough, it is still a lie and teaches children that it is OK to be deceptive. If they are deceptive once they are most likely to be deceptive again and this is not a quality we want our young people to develop.
  • Primary aged children are not aware of the security risks and privacy issues associated with online communication. Social networking sites ask for personal information such as address, name, phone number, photos. Children can provide too much personal information that is then visible to the world. Unless privacy settings are selected, personal information opens the door to the world-wide web and allows anyone to access the information. There are online predators trawling social networking sites to become ‘friends’ with innocent children. Children love having friends and they are keen to get as many as possible, even if they don’t know them in the real world.

The internet is a wonderful tool and brings with it so many benefits but it must be used wisely and safely. The internet is like electricity. We can’t live without it. It makes our lives so much better and when it is cut off, we really miss its benefits. But, it can be dangerous and we need to use it in safe ways to avoid being harmed. There are rules we teach our children about electricity, power points and electrical items. We intentionally tell them to stop playing with power points, we cover them up, we move children away from them, we explain the safe way to use electrical devices.

We need to consider the internet in the same way. We must be intentional in telling children to stop playing in inappropriate places on the internet. We need to restrict access to the internet and only provide it with adult supervision, and we must keep explaining the safe and appropriate ways to use the internet and all its fabulous apps and sites.

I encourage all our families to acknowledge this responsibility and adopt a consistent message so that we work together to help keep our children safe.