Social media. We love it; we hate it, we use it every day, we stay connected, we disconnect.

It truly is a love-hate relationship that we have.

I love social media and the opportunity it provides to stay connected. I love seeing what my grandchildren (the older ones who have accounts) are doing. Seeing my children when they go on holiday and the photos they share and my friends and their kids. It all warms my heart. I see social media as a living photo album that keeps me in touch with those around me. Plus, it’s excellent for research, and I like that too

That being said, I know there is a dark side to social media and something we all, especially parents, need to be aware of. Lately, A Current Affair has had a couple of shows on with the focus being social media. Last week, popular parenting (specifically fathering) blogger, Robert Garrett was on the show talking about how he and his wife manage social media in their home with their teenagers.

He has written many articles speaking directly into this and what our role as parents is. This week on ACA they had another story about social media and predators behind some of the accounts and the things that kids can get lured into. Kids as young as six years old. At one point, Tracy Grimshaw, the host of the show said, ‘I’ve seen enough’ when Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, who leads a world-recognised team to protect our kids was showing her two stories about kids who had trusted the person on the other end of the account.

Troubling and disturbing don’t even begin to describe the show and what’s happening online. Scary and perhaps even evil is the only word to explain what’s happening.

Parents I hate to sound the alarm bell, but you MUST BE AWARE.

You must have an open dialogue in your homes and know what your kids are doing online. Who are their friends, what apps are they using and what pop-ups show up on the apps they are using? How often are they using social media accounts? Another article by Robert Garrett gives parents tips on the new(ish) function on iPhones that allow you to monitor the time spent. ‘Screen Time, Digital Wellbeing & Priorities’ is worth the read. I’m not saying that every moment spent online is sinister or your children are in danger 24/7. What I am saying is that we need to stay connected and vigilant.

A few simple suggestions to keep your kids safe:

  1. Know what social media accounts they have.
  2. Regularly cull friends who follow and whom they follow.
  3. Don’t be afraid to unfollow or block ANYONE.
  4. Limit time spent on screens.
  5. Hand phones in before bedtime. Create a docking station for the family.
  6. Apply Parental Controls for added protection
  7. Talk, talk, talk. Keep lines of communication open.
  8. Understand social media and if you don’t, google a few tutorials, ask a friend or take a course.
  9. Talk, talk, talk. Keep lines of communication open. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH.
  10. Keep a safe space where they can come to you, knowing that if they’ve got themselves in trouble, you are in it with them.

I hope you’ll take some time whenever you read this to consider where your kids are hanging out online. Whom they are talking to. Who is influencing their lives and what has captured their attention? Your kids are worth it. Keep them safe even if it means a few tough conversations along the way. You can do this!

Much love,