Staying safe on social media

6 December 2017

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

If you have teenagers, then it’s a given that the Christmas break will involve connecting with their friends on social media. Social media is how many young people communicate and while some of us may not be as social media savvy as the digital natives in our lives, it is important that all parents understand their role in the world of social media.

We’re living in a WI-FI world. For parents, that means taking responsibility for understanding what our children are connecting to, with whom and when. Lots of parents find themselves feeling the need to create their own accounts on popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat so they can understand the environment better and make informed decisions and ground rules for their children about usage.

One of the most important things a parent needs to know is the legal age a young person can set up a social media account. Older is often wiser when it comes to social. Young people often don’t realise the impact on themselves and others of one poor choice in the social media space. Many young people find themselves reacting emotionally rather than logically and this can lead them to making decisions that they later regret. Young people are simply less practised in understanding the consequences of their actions, which often results in them taking more risks online.

Banning technology outright does not educate or empower young people to use social media wisely. Appropriate use of social media requires setting boundaries and expectations. There is a lot of information available online for parents regarding things like cyber-safety and mitigating the health risks of accessing technology for long periods.

The best role models young people have for using social media are their parents and their teachers. Having social media downtime each day, not using it prior to bedtime or refraining from using it as an avenue of venting are all ways we can model appropriate use of social media.

Even if we haven’t recognised it, young people already understand that social media offers new and exciting opportunities for connecting, creating and sharing. The role of parents is to ensure young people know how to use it safely and responsibly.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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