5 steps to introduce your daughter to social media
Rebecca Sparrow is Suncorp’s #TeamGirls ambassador and a best-selling author, columnist, podcast host and passionate advocate for teenage girls. Rebecca regularly visits high schools to present to students, and has developed a range of resources to help girls navigate their way through their formative years.
Cyber-bullying. The demand for perfection and nothing less. It’s little wonder as parents we’re stressed and anxious about our kids being on social media particularly when we watch our teens fall into a cycle of ‘compare and despair’. But social media can also be incredibly positive. It allows students to more easily ‘find their tribe’ connecting with other students who share their interests (be that sci-fi novels to netball to hip-hop to horses). And social media allows us to directly engage and connect with amazing role models and friends from around the world. So how do we get social media to work for us rather than against us? What’s the key to having a positive, healthy online experience? It’s all about following a few basic rules and adopting some simple strategies.
1. Is your daughter old enough?
Your eleven-year-old may be pleading to be on Instagram but the fact remains that the majority of social media platforms – including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat - have a legal age requirement of 13 years and over. Is it easy enough to flout this rule? Sure. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Navigating social media, understanding the repercussions of what you like, share and post is massive and kids under 13 simply do not have the judgement or social skills to handle life online. And don’t forget - once your child is on social media or has a smart phone it’s YOUR workload that increases, not theirs. You’ll be monitoring data use, trying to keep an eye on what apps they’re downloading and trying to stay on top of whose following them, who they’re talking to, the latest security settings and making sure that their life online doesn’t take over their entire existence. A better idea is to build a wall. Talk to the parents of your child’s friends and together make a pact that none of you will allow the kids to have social media until they are legally allowed to do so.
2. Lock down the privacy settings
The next step sounds obvious but is the most overlooked. Lock down your child’s privacy settings. Whatever platform your child has chosen (though it’s usually Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook) – get advice on how to secure your child’s profile so they can’t be followed by strangers or have their photos or posts shared. It contains step-by-step instructions on how to secure your child’s social media account.
3. Protect your headspace
Research tells us that social media often leaves all of us (not just students) feeling more depressed. Remember that social media is all smoke and mirrors – the majority of people post the highlights reel from their day. What people post online is rarely a true reflection of their lives. That’s why it’s so important that you and your daughter curate her social media feed so that she’s following people and organisations that inspire her, maker her laugh and broaden her view of herself and the world. Women like Michelle Obama, Laura Geitz, Emma Watson, Julia Morris, Cate Campbell, Turia Pitt, UN Women Australia, Orange Sky Laundry, the Body Image Movement and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls are all wonderful sites, which help keep your view of yourself in balance. And unfollow those people or sites, which leave you feeling less-than. It’s no good for your mental health.
4. Find your tribe!
The quality of your daughter’s online experience is hugely dependent on her friends. Real friends are loyal and love you for who you are. They don’t humiliate you or shame you or leave you out in the cold. It’s always a good idea to chat to your daughter about what a good friendship looks and feels like. And remember whether a friendship is taking place online or in person – the same friendship rules apply. Be kind and have each other’s back.
5. Finally, decide what you stand for.
What are your values? The first step in working out who you are, is deciding what you stand for. And it’s a good idea to be really clear on your values before you start interacting with people online. Ask you daughter: Are you for or against racism? Do you stand for equality? Feminism? Do you think it’s ever okay to mock or humiliate people online? What would you do if you saw someone being humiliated or bullied online? Every day on social media, your values are going to be called into account. What you post, like, share or get tagged in is a reflection of your values as a human being. And remember the majority of employers google job candidates before hiring them. Your daughter’s digital footprint will tell a story about who she is and what she stands for.
This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.