BACK in your day it might have been a perm, or a yoyo, pokemon cards or a nose ring, whatever era they grow up in, kids always want the latest, coolest thing. Once upon a time parents could simply say no and refuse to part with their hard earned cash. Nowadays, it’s more difficult to stop kids from getting their mitts on the latest must have: social media.
There are plenty of parents who allow their kids to use Twitter. This can be because they feel their child understands how to handle themselves online, because they themselves don’t understand the dangers or because they do not know how to prevent children from using the social platform. Parents may not even be aware that their children are using the site. E safety website quib.ly offers lots of advice to help parents suffering from the ‘tween Twitter dilemma’, but here’s a quick digested version…
Is Twitter safe?
Bluntly, it depends on your definition of safe. Twitter will give your children access to adult discussions and material, but they are unlikely to come across this type of content unless they actively search for it. Many children simply use Twitter as they would the school playground, for chat, gossip and self expression. This, as in real life, can lead to bullying and cyberbullying has taken place on the 140 character social network.
If your child has a private account, they will not be able to be contacted by anybody they do not approve and nobody except approved friends will be able to see their tweets — we highly recommend ensuring your child takes this step if you allow them Twitter access. They will, however, still be able to access any public content they like.
Developing a safe Twitter policy for your kids
If you do allow your children to use Twitter, it’s important to have a safe policy in place so that they know exactly what they can and can’t do, and what they should do if they come into contact with anything which makes them uncomfortable or upset.
First priority should be ensuring their account is set to private. Then make sure children know how to block users who contact them with anything they do not like, whether that’s abuse in the form of cyberbullying or unwanted attention. Here’s a guide from Twitter themselves to keeping kids safe on the site.
Above all and most importantly: Communicate. Talking to your children and engaging with them about online issues is essential. If you can have an open and honest relationship with your child about these issues you can equip them to take responsibility for their own online safety and be sure they will come to you if they ever have any concerns or problems. This is the most important thing.
How to stop kids using Twitter
If you have decided not to allow your children to use Twitter, it can be difficult to stop them — especially since many young people now have smartphones featuring Twitter apps. There is no real way for you to close or block their account yourself, the ban needs to be made and enforced by you at home.
You can set up restrictions using parental controls on your computer (talk to your internet provider to find out how to do this) and you can password protect the computer and internet altogether. For children with smartphones, you can delete the app, but they will be able to reinstall it. The real decision, then, is whether or not to allow your child to have a smartphone. If you want to avoid these issues — the answer should be ‘no’.