Esther Ghey, the mother of the murdered transgender teenager Brianna Ghey is campaigning for social media apps to be blocked on smartphones for under-16s and stronger parental controls to flag potentially harmful searches to parents, in the wake of the sentencing of her daughter’s killers.
A group of parents are campaigning on Whatsapp for a ‘smartphone-free childhood’ – what do you think?
🎧 Listen to the discussion between three parents as they talk about their experiences tackling social media usage within their families on the Today podcast
Here are just some of the Pros and Cons in this complicated world in which we find ourselves as parents.
PROS of banning social media apps on children’s phones:
Reduced exposure to cyberbullying:
By limiting access to social media, children may be less likely to experience cyberbullying, which can have significant negative impacts on their mental health.
Decreased screen time:
Banning social media apps can help reduce the amount of time children spend on their phones, allowing them to engage in more offline activities & develop healthier habits.
Protection from inappropriate content:
Children may be shielded from potentially harmful or age-inappropriate content that can be readily accessed on social media platforms.
Improved focus on education & real-life interactions:
Without the distraction of social media, children may be more focused on their studies and have more meaningful interactions with family and friends in person.
Cons of banning social media apps on children’s phones:
Social media can be a primary means of communication & connection for many children, & banning these apps could potentially isolate them from their peers.
Missed opportunities for learning and skill development:
Social media platforms can provide opportunities for children to learn digital literacy skills, connect with others who share their interests & explore new ideas and perspectives.
Difficulty in monitoring online activities:
Banning social media apps may not necessarily prevent children from accessing them through other means & it could make it harder for parents to monitor their online activities & educate them about safe internet use.
Potential backlash & resentment:
Children may feel frustrated or resentful if they perceive the ban as overly restrictive or unfair, which could strain parent-child relationships.
I was recently talking to Ben Kentish on LBC Radio and he gave me food for thought by saying we ban children under 16 from buying cigarettes, alcohol & fireworks why not ban them from social media apps as we know the dangers that they can’t always see?
What are your thoughts? How do we find a balance?
It‘s clear that further measures are necessary to protect children from online risks – The Molly Rose Foundation, a charity set up by the family of Molly Russell, who killed herself at the age of 14 after viewing harmful content on Instagram and Pinterest, said the emphasis of any review should be on giving more powers to the communications watchdog, Ofcom.
Beeban Kidron, a cross-bench peer and influential campaigner for children’s online safety, said: “The vast majority of social media is designed in a way that makes it addictive, polarising and parades unrealistic lifestyles of desire – so it ends up being a lousy place to spend your teenage years. But I am concerned that the kneejerk response is to exclude children from digital spaces rather than designing them to support their flourishing.”
The online world plays a huge role in the lives of children and young people. Social media, online gaming, instant messaging platforms and image-sharing services enable children to interact with their peers, develop and pursue interests, and connect with new communities. However, these platforms and services also come with risks, including online abuse, grooming, and exposure to content that is illegal or harmful.
The Online Safety Act 2023 sets out to minimise these risks, placing new legal duties and responsibilities on online service providers to keep children and young people safe online.
But is it robust enough?
The content of the UK government’s new Online Safety Bill is certainly both complex and controversial.
Young people are often reluctant to involve adults in their online lives. Many fear that parents and teachers will misunderstand or “overreact” in response to what they mostly regard as normal, unproblematic behaviour and experiences. Others say they are frustrated by adults who “trivialise” their experiences.
Don’t we all from parents, politicians, teachers, tech giants, to smartphone creators need to step up to being more responsible about the short term to long term damage we may be causing the next generation?
But in all of this melee, now is the time to remember that the way we use social medial is up to us so we need to ‘talk & teach’ our kids about the benefits as well as the dangers & to put in some boundaries & rules for them until they are mature & able to self- regulate its use for themselves.
In other words, it may be convenient to believe that social media applications are thrust upon us and we don’t have much choice in the matter – but that is not entirely true.
It is time we remembered why we use these applications in the first place – to enrich our relationships – and not to have them take over our lives in a dysfunctional way.
So, here are some tips for taking back control as parents and on ‘talking and teaching’ your kids about responsible social media and smartphone use:
Start conversations early:
Begin discussing responsible technology use with your children as soon as they start using smartphones or other devices. Encourage open dialogue about the benefits and potential risks of social media.
Set clear guidelines and boundaries: Establish rules around screen time, social media usage, and appropriate online behaviour. Clearly communicate these guidelines to your children and enforce them consistently.
Lead by example: Model healthy technology habits for your children by demonstrating responsible smartphone use yourself. Show them how to prioritise real-life interactions, limit screen time, and engage in offline activities.
Teach critical thinking skills: Help your children develop the ability to critically evaluate online content, including distinguishing between reliable information and misinformation, recognising online scams, and understanding the potential consequences of their online actions.
Foster empathy and kindness: Encourage your children to treat others with respect and kindness both online and offline. Discuss the impact of cyberbullying and emphasise the importance of thinking before posting or commenting online.
Stay informed and involved: Stay up-to-date with the latest social media platforms, trends, and safety features, and regularly check in with your children about their online experiences. Be available to offer guidance and support when needed.
Teach privacy and security measures: Help your children understand the importance of protecting their personal information online, such as avoiding sharing sensitive details and using strong, unique passwords. Discuss privacy settings and encourage them to regularly review and update their settings as needed.
Encourage balance: Encourage your children to maintain a healthy balance between online and offline activities. Encourage them to pursue hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and engage in physical activity away from screens.
Address challenges openly: Be prepared to address any challenges or concerns that arise regarding your child’s social media or smartphone use. Listen to their perspective, offer support and guidance, and work together to find solutions.
Be supportive and understanding: Finally, be patient and understanding as your children navigate the complexities of social media and smartphone use. Offer support, encouragement, and reassurance as they learn to use technology responsibly.
How do you handle smartphones, social media and tech in your home?