I came across a rather concerning statistic this week.
25% of children aged 3-4 who use social media have their own profiles.
Now I get that 91% of 15/16 year olds use social media and that 87% of them have their own social media profile, but when this number of pre-school children have access to social media AND their own profiles, this really concerns me.
Whilst in he UK we are recognised as adults at aged 18, emerging science about the development of the brain suggest that we don't reach full brain maturity until around age 25.
Hence the parental monitoring issue :
This week I also heard about the Snapchat "Family Centre" which basically from what I understand currently, enables parents to essentially monitor who their kids are engaging with online, whilst also keeping the specifics of their conversations private.
Now this in itself isn't an easy area to manage, but here's the thing...
In order to access the "Family Centre" each parent needs to sign up for their own Snapchat account first, which of course means, that if every parent of every child on Snapchat jumps on this, the number of active user accounts will also jump.....significantly.
Well done Snapchat?
Well, if this is a genuine and honest attempt to protect our kids and reduce online abuse and if it works, then great.
I guess it's early days and time will tell.
but here comes a cautionary note....
As with anything that uses tech to monitor us, we are led by the people who made that tech AND by the user agreements that we sign up to ( when was the last time you studied your own social media platform T's and C's?)
So, if we are concerned about protecting our kids online, maybe as opposed to relying upon the tech companies to do it for us, we could try a more traditional approach and commit to actually opening up some conversations about it, with our kids.
"But that's fraught with issues around privacy, embarrassment and emotions" I hear you cry!
Yep, of course it is.
But, who's best equipped to deal with that? You and your kids, together, side by side, or the faceless execs of the tech companies and their shiny new algorithms?
Last week I posted about a little game called the 6 Card Shuffle. A simple way to start to open up those awkward conversations about emotions and how we are feeling.
So on a similar theme, here are some simple social media related questions that might help to start a conversation.
How does it make you feel when you use social media?
What sort of content do you enjoy?
Have you seen anything on there that you don't understand?
Do you get any friend or follow requests from strangers? If so, how are you handling them?
Does your social media ever mess with your emotions or affect you negatively?
What do you think you can do to help maintain a healthy balance when it comes to social media use?
Simple open questions that if thrown into a conversation, might just help to open up some other conversations.
It's great that the tech companies are stepping in to help, but remember, they have their own commercial interests here too.
So, maybe for something as important as your childs welfare and online security, of course go ahead and use whatever tools work for you, but please don't rely solely on the tech.
Maybe try the more honest, open, vulnerable approach.
Let your kids know the they can speak to you and that you'll support them when they do. Help them to understand and appreciate the complexities, the good and the bad sides of social media. Reassure them that we all make mistakes, they are simply opportunities for us to learn and develop ourselves further.
It may feel a little harder to do and be a little more time consuming than simply ticking a privacy box on an online form, but the chances are, it will be better for everyone in the long run.
Thanks once again to the team at BBC Radio Stoke. You can hear the original interview here.