While 13 is the minimal legal age to register on social media, a third of primary children and half 11-year-old children use it. (Sources: ‘Les pratiques numériques des jeunes de 11 à 18 ans’, 2021 and ‘Born social’, 2021 of digital Generation ; ‘Étude sur le cyberharcèlement des jeunes ’, 2021, e-Enfance/Caisse d’Épargne).
Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram and Tik Tok are the best known to watch videos, to entertain oneself and keep in touch with members of one’s family or one’s friends. But those practices are not risk-free. How to alert teens as parents?
Establishing a positive dialogue around screens to prevent dangers
You can exchange on your children’s online practices, what they watch and what they think or feel about what they see. Show your interest and encourage them to share their internet experiences just as you would talk about their school days, their friends, and their non-virtual activities. What do they do online and at what moment? What do they play at? Which websites do they use? What websites do they search and to whom do they talk?
Raise awareness on some risks so they know you are listening to them and that it is important that they could confess to you or a trusted person in case of trouble. In France, almost 1 child out of 5 has been confronted to Cyberviolences: exposure to shocking contents, mockeries, threats, bullying, sexual advances from adults… Discover our tips to tackle those topics with an appropriate speech, in our learning clip.
If you had forbidden your preadolescent children from going on social media when they expressed a strong desire to use it, this could push them into creating accounts without your knowledge and to hesitate to entrust with someone in case of trouble. Invite them to express themselves on their motivations and depending on their age and their level of maturity, you could try to negotiate or find less risky compromises (agree when they will turn this age or let them go on social media only when you are here; have their login name and passwords…). You could accompany them step by step into the discovery of social media and especially in the creation part of both the account and the parameters of visibility and security.
Exposure to shocking, violent, and inadequate contents
30% of children declare having been shocked when unintentionally coming across contents on the internet or on social media (e-Enfance, 2021).
At the age of 12, near one child out of three has been exposed to pornographic contents. Half of teenagers see those images through pop-ups during their online activities (internet Window displaying without having been requested by the user) and think they were ‘too young’ the first time they were confronted to it. (Sources: ‘Moi jeune’ Sondage OpinionWay/20 minutes, 2018 ; ‘Les adolescents et le porno : vers une Génération Youporn ?’, Ifop/OPEN, 2017)
In addition to sexual motivated contents, your child can also come across dangerous challenges, violent images, or horror movies… To limit the risks, you can configure the devices that your child has access to.
Cyberbullying designates repeated malicious acts against a person through internet and apps/mail/social media (insults, mockeries, rumours, unwillingly shared photos, or videos). Bullying risks between pupils rise in CM1-CM2 (end of Primary school UK/Elementary school US) and at the admission of Secondary School (UK)/Middle School (US). If this happens to your children, you could reassure them by saying that it is not their fault and that there is nothing to be ashamed of or scared of, that you are here to help and protect them.
Useful: To preserve it, you could install the free Bodyguard app that acts against cyberbullying, hatred speeches, and toxic contents on social media with an automatic filtering system.
Careful with fake friends
Through their screens, most children are in touch with strangers, more than parents could image, even sometimes without their knowledge. They can be exposed to people with bad intentions (other young people or adults), on social media but also via online games such as Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft or Clash Royale*.
Several offenders are present on those games and discussion spaces since there are public chats or interactions between players. They can pretend to be children to reach underage and gradually gain their trust (process of ‘grooming’). Their aim is to obtain personal information or photos of the child, sexualise the exchanges, perhaps organising a physical meeting.
From CE2 (Primary School, UK; Elementary School US), you can tackle the topic of bad online encounters. Inform your child about adults’ existence trying to pretend to be children to hurt them. Raise awareness regarding those fake friends’ trap who act nicely and curious towards him/her. We can never know who is hiding behind a screen, be careful not to accept strangers in their ‘virtual’ friend list. You could ask your children if there are some people, they do not know in real life but mostly like on the internet.
Private Life Protection
To protect their identity and their private life, children must know they should not share photos nor personal information on the internet: name, address, school, activity places, mail, or phone number- it is important they understand that what they publish online is public and can be retrieved by anyone (by screenshotting), included by malicious people. Those are digital footprints they lost control on and that can be used against them (blackmailing, photomontage, identity theft, mockeries…).
If they have created accounts on social media, help them configure their accessibility and confidentiality on their profile. You could discuss the search of likes, subscribers/followers, and the race of fame of some influencers; and resulting dangers for children who expose themselves to anyone. Finally, even if their account is private and that they only send photos or videos to their environment (classmates, cousins…), explain to them that there is no guarantee that this content will not be copied or shared (sometimes unwillingly) to strangers.
*1 child out of 2 patronises this networking game sites (4 out of 10 from primary school). (Source: e=Enfance/Caisse d’Epargne, 2021)
3 questions to ask your child to protect him/her from violence
- Have you ever felt queasy, scared, disgusted, sad, or shocked because of something you saw online or of someone who talked to you on the internet?
- Have you or your friends ever received messages, calls, or strangers’ photos?
- Did anyone ever ask for your personal information such as your address, or to send him/her a photo, or to meet him/her?
3 questions to ask your child to protect his/her private life.
- Would you agree to display at the entrance of your school or in the street: photos, videos, or commentaries that you publish?
- Would you accept that strangers come to watch you doing those activities you want to post on the internet?
- Could it hurt you or do you wrong now or in 10 years?
Are your children being harassed on the internet? Was a video filmed and published on social media without their consent? Do you think they were approached on an online game by an offender? In case of digital violence, you can phone for free the 3018, which offers pieces of advice and psychological, legal, and technical help to parents and their children. The 3018, handled by e-Enfance, is accessible via Tchat on 3018.fr, Messenger and WhatsApp and also exists on downloadable app so as to be put in contact with and be taken in charge by specialised ears. They possess accelerated reporting procedures to suppress accounts or contents in a few hours on social media.
Keep evidence of the different exchanges (screenshots…) and information on strangers (pseudonyms…). You can report online and block those people, deactivate/suppress the app or your children’s account by which they had been contacted. To block is to protect your child, report is contributing to protecting other potential victims. Depending on the gravity of the situation, you can complain if you think it is necessary.