How To Keep Children Safe Online When Using Social Media

1 in every 5 parents think that there are no age requirements for joining a social media site and most parents in the UK have no idea whether their children are old enough to have a social media account.


L2S Social MediaIf parents have little idea about the minimum age restriction for signing up to a social media platform then is it down to schools to educate pupils and even their parents about what these age restrictions are? In a bid to protect young people from online bullying and social predators, as well as ensuring they are keeping on the right side of the law, just who’s responsibility is it to keep children safe online?

With more than four in five 13 -18 year olds having seen "online hate", including offensive or threatening language on social media sites, it is evident that many young people are not always being exposed to just positive experiences online.

CBBC Newsround, (some Countryfile viewers will remember it as John Craven’s Newsround in days gone by), conducted a survey, which identified that more than three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 in the UK have social media accounts, even though they are below the minimum age limit.

Why Do Age Restrictions Matter?

There’s a reason why children must be aged 12 and over and at least 135cm tall before they are allowed to sit in the front passenger seat of a car using an adult seat belt. It’s the same reason that young people are not allowed to gamble in betting shops and casinos until they are 18 or drink alcohol before they reach the same age. Age restrictions are about keeping children safe until they are old enough to engage with an activity with complete awareness of what they’re letting themselves in for.

The Social Media Landscape For Young People Is Changing

Becoming a teenager however, brings with it peer pressure previously not experienced, when suddenly, at 13, the child is no longer a child but a teenager. It’s an exciting as well as bewildering time becoming a new teenager and rites of passage, such as creating a Facebook profile are a sign of personal growth and approaching adulthood. However, for some, wanting to become a teenager starts before they reach 13 and recent figures show that 78% of children under that age have at least one social media account already.

Do You Know Your Social Media Age Restrictions?

The majority of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest have a minimum age requirement of 13. YouTube is 18, as is the photo sharing site Flickr, although a child can sign up to YouTube account at just 13 with their parent’s permission. The mobile chat app WhatsApp is unusual in so far as it has a minimum age requirement of 16.

With such variation when it comes to age restrictions for joining social media sites, is it any wonder that children, parents and teachers are uncertain what the rules of engagement are? Social Media sites themselves are coming under increasing pressure to make their platforms safer environments for young people and a good first step would be to ensure that age restrictions are much clearer on sign up pages.

How Do You Help Your Children Stay Safe Online?

It's important that parents & teachers guide children on how to stay safe online.

Young people appear to be aware of the dangers from potential trolling and cyber bullying online and more than two-thirds knew they could report such issues but felt that people were much more likely to ignore their concerns.

There is obviously a positive aspect to allowing children access to online sites and Hannah Broadbent, from the UK Safer Internet Centre, told the BBC: "It's so important that we show children what other things they can do using digital technology that are engaging, creative and age-appropriate. It's about showing them what else it could be and inspiring them with that."

Ultimately, as adults we all have a responsibility to ensure that children are safe when surfing the internet and social media platforms.

What Advice Is Available?

If you have parents who and looking for advice on how to keep children safe online then they can visit Internet Matters.

The site was founded by the UK's four major broadband providers; BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media with the BBC and Google recently joining as partners and offers advice on everything from setting parental controls on devices to cyber bullying and sexting.

Through Internet Matters, parents are able to access the tools, information and guidance they need to make the right decisions.

The online education site E-safety Support helps teaches in their role of protecting children when they’re online by offering both educational material for teaching children, and also training for teachers across a number of e-safety topics. In January of 2017, research commissioned by Besa (British Education Suppliers Association) called for e-safety to become a part of every teacher’s ongoing CPD when a survey of 1,300 ICT lead teachers revealed that around half thought that teachers lacked the required e-safety training.

Both parents and teachers can take action by helping children understand how to manage the risk online by applying these useful tips I came across on the site Wales Online:

  • Show them how to set privacy settings at the strongest level. Sites can change privacy settings so make sure you stay up to date with them.
  • Report people and inappropriate conversations to the site administrator via the ‘help’ or ‘report’ tab (if available) and always keep a copy of the conversation as evidence.
  • Teach your child how to block or ignore people on social networking sites and online games, and support them in knowing what they can do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Set boundaries about which sites they can use and for how long. Try to do this when they first start using social networking sites, so they get used to it from a young age.
  • Teach your child never to share any personal details – this includes their password, real name, address and their school.
  • There’s no question that the internet brings with it wonderful opportunities for children to learn about and explore the world we live in. But just as you wouldn’t send a 10 year old out of the front door with a suitcase and suggest they travel the world unsupervised to expand their horizons, then by accompanying them on their online journeys we can at least help ensure their e-safety and a bright digital future.



    We would like to thank our guest blogger Steve Phillip for his thoughts on this topic. If you would like to share your comments or suggestions on underage use of social media sites, please use the comments section below.

    Written by Steve Phillip on July 06, 2017 11:00

    Digital Reputation Webinar

    Join us to find out how teachers can maintain the reputation of the school and themselves on social media


    Digital Reputation News
    These stories have hit the headlines because inappropriate teacher behaviour has been exposed via social media.

    However social media exposes teachers to being on the receiving end too, with less attention grabbing stories of teachers being bullied by parents via Twitter, or pupils exploiting Facebook to create fake teachers accounts. Using social media can be a digital minefield for school staff.

    The Teachers’ Standards 2012 state that teachers, including headteachers, should maintain public trust in the teaching profession as part of their professional duties. The online reputation of the school is also an important consideration. While the issues of personal use of social media can be addressed with a staff code of conduct, it is important that teachers understand how to implement good practice and the implications of not doing.

    So, with social media being a progressively integral part of everyday life and also having the potential to be an effective communication tool in education, what steps can be taken to ensure online actions protect both the reputation of the teacher and indeed the school?

    Digital reputation webinar
    Hosted by social media expert, Steve Phillip from Linked2Success, this informative session will help protect teachers online. It will also show teachers how to use their online activity for career development.

    The webinar will discuss:

  • Recognising how visible you are on social media and what others might find when they Google you or your school.
  • How to mitigate risk to your online reputation and understanding what constitutes risk.
  • Managing your privacy settings on social media and restricting who can see your activity.
  • How to engage with online conversations and respond to negative comments and posts.
  • How to promote your brand profile positively to position your expertise and win friends and influence people.
  • Please note, teachers should always adhere to their own school AUP when using social media.

    The webinar takes place on Monday 10th July at 4pm and will last approximately 40 minutes, with time for Q&A after the main presentation - Register for the digital reputation webinar

    If you have registered for the webinar and have a specific question that you would like Steve to address on the day, please email in advance to tina@e-safetysupport.com

    Written by E-safety Support on June 22, 2017 10:24

    The 3 Rules Of How To Criticise Your Child’s Teacher Online

    If you’re reading this post, the chances are you’re a parent, with a child or children who attend school and if you’re not, then you probably know someone who is. If you are a teacher, you may wonder why we are publishing this article - please read on


    Online BullyingRarely, these days, does a week go by, when we don’t hear coverage on the news about cases of online bullying. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this phenomenon, tagged as ‘cyberbullying’, is mainly aimed at children, such as the tragic story of 14 year old Megan Evans, from Millford Haven, who, in February 2017, was driven to take her own life, following a consistent campaign of cyber-bullying on the social media site Snapchat.

    Such stories are particularly heart breaking when they involve children. Equally concerning though is the increase with which teachers are on the receiving end of similar bullying and abuse and often from the parents of the children they teach.

    The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) receives hundreds of calls every week from teachers who are being ‘cyberbullied’ The majority of such complaints are about parents using websites and social media, in particular, to attack those they entrust with their childrens’ education.

    This week, the media has emphasised the problem of inappropriate online posts by singling out some of the top web and social media sites for failing to do enough to prevent illegal and hateful content being shared online.

    Criticising Online Has Become Too Easy
    We live in a world where anyone can instantly vent their emotions, positive or negative, to an ever-attentive online audience and it seems that the louder we shout the bigger the audience that can be reached. An angry tweet or Facebook post, from a disgruntled parent, aimed at a teacher, could potentially go viral within minutes of being shared, without that teacher being aware that their reputation is being dismantled online while they sleep.

    Remember the days of pre-social media and even before email, when you had to write a letter? If you had a complaint, you would invariably put it in writing or visit the school in question, sitting down face-to-face with your son or daughter’s teacher and thrash out your concerns in a reasonably civilised manner. Only the most abrupt and confident of disgruntled parents would resort to name calling or verbal abuse, when sitting in the same room as the person they had issue with. Much of what is posted on social media today would rarely be said if that person was face-to-face with their intended target.

    Criticising Teachers Online Affects Your Children
    As long ago as 2009, research from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) showed that 63% of teachers who had suffered cyberbullying personally said they had received unwelcome emails. Over a quarter had had offensive messages posted about them on social networking sites such as Facebook and 28% described being sent unwelcome text messages.

    Online Teacher BullyingIn 2016 More than half of the 1,188 head teachers who replied to a survey by schools management service, The Key, said that parents' online behaviour was a problem. 15% of the heads themselves, mentioned that they had suffered from negative behaviour from parents. More than half of heads surveyed said that parents’ online behaviour was a concern.

    The NASUWT teacher’s union has described the online bullying of teachers by parents and pupils as a ‘growing trend’. It’s important to understand how the result of this behaviour can affect the children of those parents who are taking to social media to vent their frustrations. Teachers are experiencing anxiety and depression, paranoia, often having to take anti-depressants. The result of these measures means that teachers are becoming worn down and in some cases, unable to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This of course has a negative impact on the children they teach. The more the parents persist with their online attacks, the less effective an education their children receive. In short, such online abuse is self-defeating in the long run.

    How To Criticise A Teacher Online
    There is one over-riding rule, when it comes to criticising a teacher online and especially in public and that is DON’T! Hold your horses, count to 10, whatever you do but resist the all too easy temptation to fire off a tweet or a Facebook post. Let’s face it, when you use social media in such a way you are hiding behind your very own Facebook wall. The person your criticism is aimed at cannot defend themselves, at least not adequately. This approach is itself a form of bullying - is that how you want to come across?

    The 3 Rules Of How To Criticise Your Child’s Teacher Online

    Rule 1. Stop and consider what you want to achieve from your criticism.
    Are you angry and your criticism is simply a way to vent your frustration? Aside from momentarily getting the anger off your chest and most likely upsetting the person the criticism is aimed at, what will your comment achieve? Will it improve the situation you’re unhappy with? Most forms of criticism, unless constructive, can be categorised as aggressive behaviour. The definition of aggressive behaviour is a personal attack, verbal or physical on another person. This type of behaviour rarely gains the support of others, directly involved or those who observe the attack (other online viewers).

    Rule 2. Consider the impact your criticism may have on your victim.
    That late night, emotional tweet or post-beer Facebook post takes only seconds to construct then share but its impact on the person it’s intended for can last a lifetime. One of the earliest and probably most famous ‘victims’ of online abuse, goes back to the administration of former US president Bill Clinton. Monica Lewinski, who Clinton finally admitted to having relations with, talked about the severe suicidal tendencies she experienced in the aftermath of her affair and the torrent of online abuse she received; her mother would stand in the bathroom whilst Lewinski showered, to make sure she didn’t act on her feelings. Why does online humiliation have such an impact though?

    Shame and guilt (perceived or real) are 2 of our core emotions, which we’ll do almost anything to avoid experiencing. These emotions mean that we have failed to live up to our own moral standards. One outcome, when we’re criticised publicly, is that we become concerned that others will think we’re a bad person, this can have a devastating impact on some people, creating a spiralling down of their own self-worth. Social media and its potential reach, simply exacerbates this feeling of poor self-worth. Is your criticism worth the potential consequences that it may cause?

    Rule 3. Criticise the action not the person
    Chances are that it’s rarely the person that you’re unhappy with. More likely, it’s a behaviour or an action you believe they have taken that is the cause of your anger – focus on that action or behaviour only. Teachers are people, sometimes they get things wrong, it’s human nature. To criticise someone’s character (“you are stupid, an idiot, an imbecile) implies that you know this person well enough to suggest these are this person’s permanent character traits. If this were true then it’s unlikely that this person would ever have become qualified as a teacher. Identify the specific behaviour or action you’re unhappy with and if you must criticise online, stick to that issue. When you complain about an action or a behaviour then facts can be assessed to determine whether the criticism is warranted or not. When you attack someone’s character, then it is far more difficult for you or anyone else to justify your actions. It is unsurprising therefore, that people who display regular patterns of aggressive behaviour, have few real friends or supporters.

    The University of Oxford’s ‘Practical Ethics’ publication, which draws on research from students and researchers, based at the Philosophy Faculty, also explains an irony in the behaviour of people who attack others online. ‘The people who feel the most insecure about a certain character attribute (e.g., being honest) are also the ones prone to call out other people on it, this is known as self-completion theory. Such public criticism is a symbolic act that achieves self-completion and makes people feel secure about themselves.

    There will obviously be occasions when you have legitimate causes for complaint about the quality of the teaching your child is receiving. Teaching is no more a perfect science than any other form of vocation – people make mistakes, they make poor decisions, they are fallible. How about you, can you boast a blemish free life, personally or occupationally?

    It is your right to criticise your child’s educators, when you feel the quality of teaching or care falls short of the expected standards. You should do so however, with the intention of improving that quality of education and care. If you criticise simply to put someone else down, then you lower yourself to the level of the playground bully.



    We would like to thank Steve Phillip of Linked2Success for this article. Steve will be hosting our Digital Reputation webinar in July - to find out more and register, click here.

    If you would like to share your thoughts or experiences with other teachers, please use the comments section below

    Written by Steve Phillip on May 04, 2017 12:29


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