You can imagine my frustration when my daughter returned home from school one day crying, because of being singled out in a online safety school incursion. "Dad, I have been breaking the law!" The visiting educator had asked anyone with a YouTube of Facebook account to stand up and then those children were scolded for breaking the law in respect to age restrictions.
I have had this argument with many educators - yes there are dangers for our children online. Bullying, sexting and online anonymity are all very relevant and very, very scary for a parent.
The danger here is just as real as other risks like a young driver having a car accident - and yet to combat this we educate and assess a beginner driver. We get in the car with them and go driving - we actually make it a condition of their first three months of driving with a big L and a licensed driver at their side at all times.
Why would learning to use social media be any different? I'd like the large Social Media companies to adopt this method with indicators and potential parent moderated accounts for younger users. Here are some tactics and discussions I had with my daughter around social media.
Start them on L-Plates
If your child wants to have social media account before the required age, use an L-Plates concept! Work with them to research the age limit, and talk about why they aren't allowed their own account. Then, set it up with your own email details but with an anonymous nickname for them. Explain the situation to them and let them know it's a privilege, not a right.
Open the account for them using your own email address, and set it up so that all the posts and replies are sent to your email as a notification. Yes, if they are going to be prolific it will be a hard task to keep up - but that in itself should be a good conversation to have. Be really clear that you are seeing everything - It's not an invasion of privacy if everyone knows the deal.
Explain the technology
I don't mean you need to start on a computer science degree, but explain this one simple aspect... Once something has been posted on the internet it's always there. Even if you delete it, someone can take a screenshot.
Show them. Even if you not sure on how to do this, use your phone to take a picture of what is on their screen.
Keep the lines open
Read everything and if there are issues work through them. Every now and then comment on a post or reply. I haven't got to this part yet, but I guess there will be a point where I will hand over too.
I'll keep you posted :)