3 experts and 2 parents have answered
Facebook admitted this month that there has been a ‘decreased in daily users among teens’, - confirming something first-generation digital parents have known for a long time. Facebook is something our teens are on, but they use instant messaging clients, and the more parents push their own networks, the less attractive they are to their kids.
That’s not to say they’re not interested in social networking, but it’s a parental duty to learn about the tools they are using. Uninformed decisions are bad ones, especially when they are made too late. You need to know what digital platforms your kids are using, and take a refresher course at least every six months.
We gave my 11-year-old daughter a BlackBerry when she started secondary school in September, and within a week she had mastered BlackBerry Messenger. Six weeks later, many of her friends were taking part in group BBM chats after school and by chance we discovered that some of these sessions were frequented by people she didn’t know.
This broke one of our three golden rules of social media with our kids: Never chat with or 'friend' someone you don’t know.
As neither my wife, myself or her older brother use a BlackBerry, we didn’t know how BBM worked. So gave her ‘the chat about safety online’ (UPDATE 2.0.1: BBM advisory) and scaled her messaging back to the more accountable and familiar FaceTime and Skype. It made me realise how important it is to understand the platforms our kids use, especially if we don’t use them.
Even now, I know what WhatsApp is, but I don’t know what it can do. I don’t want her to get in trouble one day and for my response to be ‘Well, I didn’t know it could do that,’ or for me to ban her using a service which has become part of her daily online activity. Relentless innovation means we need relentless learning.
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Should children and adults use the same media tools?
Children are taking a central position in the organisation of media worldwide, especially in view of increased global mobility and inter-connectivity. Interdisciplinary perspectives on childhood involve children as contributors and negotiators and it is thus recognised that children affects media. BUT children are actively constructing their own social lives and peer cultures and are no longer only understood through adult assumptions. Therefore we should put media in context following a child-centred approach and cater to their own specific needs by asking them what they want.
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Good response Cliff. Messaging apps, are increasingly the app of choice for teens, and other social media apps with messaging included are also very popular. My own kids use Facebook far more for the messaging than posting on walls, because they are so aware of privacy. I still keep an eye on them, but are trusting them more and more over the years as they prove to me that they are responsible online. Whatsapp is certainly safer than Kik Messenger, but unlike Skype and FaceTime, it encourages users to share their profiles across other social media like Facbook twitter ect...Any messaging app that doesn't have privacy controls, or encourages sharing across platforms, or includes hidden adult apps as Kik does, is not suitable for kids especially ones under 13yrs of age. Best practice, is to look online for reviews, simply google "is ......safe for kids" and you might get a good idea of what the issues are safety wise for each app. commonsensemedia.org has great reviews as does secure.me In answer to the question, I wish there were more kid's friendly messaging apps and social media around, but unfortunately anything that designed for kids is often seen as uncool so they fail. Skype and iMessage are the safest options, but only with supervision and education around online safety. Kids should only be allowed to use social media apps if the parents know what the apps can do, and when the child is ready to handle it. Stick with parental guidelines around ages in the most part, but be aware that the age recommendations vary a lot. Rule of thumb if its listed for older teens over 17+ there's a damn good reason, because apps listed for that age range are rare.
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Certainly we know kids are a bit more savvy about who is listening in to their conversations so they tend to steer away from the sites their parents are frequenting. I think it also depends on the kids ages too. When they are younger and you have more control you can stipulate what apps they use and help monitor their use. As they get older however it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with every single site they visit. We need to be confident that we have taught them early the skills to remain safe, make the best choices and to be a good digital citizen no matter where they are hanging out.
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As the founder of Maily I'ld to share what we've been working on for the past 2 years.
We've developed a way for kid's aged 3-10 to communicate with family and friends in a safe and creative way: www.maily.com.
Kid's can draw, use stamps, backgrounds and then share their beautiful messages with a selected contact list.
Parents can decide who their kid's can communicate with and if they want they can also decide to approve any incoming and/or outgoing messages.
Launched about a year ago we've over 100 K users who have exchanged more than 1M messages.
Hope you'll like it and let us know what you think about it.
Please let me know if you would like to have any other info.