Growing up in a digital age poses many challenges; the pressure to communicate via social networks at an earlier and earlier age is certainly one of these. The research from our Zeeko All Ireland Digital Trend Report found that 24% of 5th class pupils and 43% of 6th class pupils are users of Instagram. Snapchat is also popular, with 19% of children in 5th class and 37% in 6th class indicating that they communicate using Snapchat. Parents regularly ask us: ‘what age should I let my child become active on social media?’ The answer to this question really depends on one thing, the maturity of your child. The person best placed to judge this is you. You know your child best.

There are some general guidelines that may be of help to you if or when you decide to allow your child to use social networking sites.

Encourage your child to remember that what they post online cannot be easily removed or deleted. When we visit schools to talk to children about staying safe online we promote the T-Shirt Rule. This rule is very simple, we ask the children to think about what they post on social networks as if it was written on the front of their t-shirt. ‘Would you wear what you post on the front of your t-shirt’, certainly makes them think twice about what they are posting!

Be a friend and a follower of your child online. Being aware of what your child is doing online is extremely important. Particularly for younger children, it is a good idea to have access to their passwords and to be aware of what they are posting, especially at the start of their digital experience.

Keep certain information private. Regularly remind your children not to use private information like their home address or surname when online.

Keeping the lines of communication open and having regular conversations with your children about their digital experience ‘is always a great place to start.

As we frequently say at Zeeko the internet is a fantastic resource for children, but they do need guidance on how best to navigate it. Social networking is certainly one area where this is very true.

Here is a very interesting article we recently shared on our social media platforms about what the top 4 social media networks are doing to protect children online.

The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide provides more detailed information and advice on keeping your child safe in the digital world. You can buy the book here.

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