top of page

The Importance of Social Media Safety: Important Advice for Parents

I had my first bad experience on social media where I was bullied. My wedding videographer shared a reel on Instagram with an excerpt from my speech, and it went viral.

Boy in Red Shirt Sitting on Chair in Front of Black Computer
Photo by Cottonbro Studio

Warning: This article contains discussions about bullying, harassment, and online safety. Should you need any immediate support, please see resources below:

I had my first bad experience on social media where I was bullied. My wedding videographer shared a reel on Instagram with an excerpt from my speech, and it went viral.

For context, my husband and I met on a dating app, and the height on his profile showed that he was taller than he actually was. It’s something about which we frequently joke. It is also a source of humour within his friend group. I knew it would be a solid opening joke to engage our wedding guests.

While there were plenty of positive comments about my speech, internet trolls came out in full force. As I sat watching the number of views increase to over 2 million, I found myself feeling incredibly anxious and fixating on the negative comments, comments such as “what a pathetic woman,” “what a shallow woman,” and “this girl sucks.” I asked the videographer to remove the ability to comment on the reel, which he kindly did.

On reflection, two things struck me:

Firstly, misogyny was at the heart of all the negative comments. But that is a longer conversation for another time. Secondly, as a confident and self-assured 31-year-old woman, who is secure in my relationship, I felt such intense anxiety about a handful of negative comments. What about the incredibly vulnerable 13-year-old plagued by insecurities about their body and questions about their self-worth? My heart broke for that kid and millions of others who face online harassment every single day.

As an educator, I am no stranger to conversations about bullying the toxicity of social media. I wish there were a way to ensure all children could be safe online, but sadly, that is not the world in which we live. However, from the training I’ve done and conversations I’ve had with parents and colleagues, here are some of my tips for helping your children stay safe online. Please note: I am not an expert. If your child is experiencing bullying or harassment, we strongly encourage you to speak with qualified professionals and authorities.

1. Talk about it!

The internet is an amazing tool when used correctly. From a young age, children can learn, research, play games, have fun and connect with family and friends online. All these things should be encouraged in a regulated way. Regular check-in times with your children to discuss the things they’ve seen online can be a really useful way to normalize conversations about social media. This time also prevents these conversations from becoming taboo in your household. You can also model this by sharing things you’ve seen online and being open about your own experiences with social media.

2. Model healthy social media habits

Children are observers and will look to you as a role model. It’s not always easy, but try to model healthy habits such as putting your phone away at mealtimes and not checking it while spending quality time together as a family. This habit will also help your mental health and online well-being.

3. Ask your child about the apps and websites they use

It can be easy to feel out of touch with the latest social media apps, but this shouldn’t prevent you from trying to understand them. Ask your child to teach and show you things so you can understand how they function. If after seeing a particular site you want to stop them using it, don’t just ban it but explain the reasons why you have made this decision.

4. Set boundaries – but they need to be realistic

The boundaries you set around social media are important, but it’s also important that you remember that these boundaries need to be age appropriate and will likely shift over time. For example, if they aren’t allowed online before bed because it can impact their sleep, then the time frame for this will need to change each year to reflect their changing bedtimes. It is also critical that you don’t just have arbitrary boundaries; you will need to explain WHY you have a particular rule in place so they can eventually manage those boundaries themselves without parental intervention. You can set up parental controls, but your child may be able to learn ways to get around these, so you want to empower them to make good decisions for themselves.

5. Keep lines of communication open

It is crucial that your child feels they can come to you if they have seen something online that is upsetting, so I recommend consistently reassuring them that they can talk to you (this applies to all aspects of their life, not just social media). Remember to stay calm and keep your own emotions in check so you can find solutions together in a measured way, including blocking individuals, contacting their school, or reporting things like bullying to the police.

6. Act on warning signs

You know your child better than anyone. If something feels off, then it likely is. So acting on any warning signs is vital if you start to feel concerned. Remember to have open conversations with your child, but also actively listen to what they are saying without judgment. And finally, reassure them that you will always be there for them and that even if you don’t have the answers, you will find someone who does.

Social media can be used for so much learning, connecting and discovering. But just like anything, it must be balanced, regulated and in moderation. Find more information on cyberbullying and warning signs here.

47 views0 comments


bottom of page