As of 2019, there were approximately 3.48 billion people using social media. In a world where this figure represents nearly 60% of our global population, it is not surprising that Pope Francis has over 20 million Twitter followers.
Like Pope Francis, sharing information and images via social media is a part of daily life for many children and teens. Social media allows children, particularly teenagers to communicate with one another, and to document and share what they are doing in real time.
Whether it’s via text message or a smartphone app like Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok, today’s children and youth are able to share personal information far beyond what you as parents could do when you were young. The reality of this means that it is important for parents to learn about the different technologies and platforms that children are using to help keep them safe online.
Understanding the connected world of teenagers can be challenging for parents. Even more challenging is the reality that there is always a new app or platform coming around the corner. For this reason it is crucial that all children learn about their digital footprint, what Wikipedia describes as:
One’s unique set of traceable digital activities, actions, contributions and communications that are manifested on the Internet or on digital devices.
DIGITAL FOOTPRINT TIPS FOR FAMILIES TO DISCUSS
- When you visit websites, search, and interact online, a trail of information is left behind.
- Elements of your digital footprints can be searched or shared.
- Digital footprints can be helpful or harmful to reputations both now and in the future.
- Once online, things can exist forever (even if deleted).
- You should always think before you post online.
- Personal information or opinions sent to one person can be shared with a larger audience.
- Googling yourself can be a good habit to get into.
- Old or inactive accounts should be disabled or deleted.
- You should keep certain personal details private and you can control the privacy settings on many of your online accounts.
- We need to be mindful of the digital footprints of others too (e.g. Ask before tagging others in photos).
As an avid Twitter user, Pope Francis calls to us to “boldly become citizens of the digital world”, with the image of the Good Samaritan as our inspiration. We are called not only to love our neighbour, but to bring the love of God to the new global neighbourhood. The Statement points out that we are called not just to be inhabitants of this new digital world, but active citizens shaping it.
What about limits?
- Model good behaviour on your own social media accounts.
- Set screen time limits and set rules on when screens are appropriate to use.
- Teach your child the value of “unplugging” from devices for technology-free time. Social media can be exciting, but it should be considered entertainment. Remind your child that no message is so important that it can’t wait until the morning.
- Keep in mind that some children have "streaks" with online friends, which means they message daily to maintain a streak. Losing smartphone or social media privileges can trigger stress and anxiety if they can’t maintain their "streaks".
Rebel Clark, Year 8 Coordinator, Wellbeing