The internet moves at a rapid pace and different trends come and go. Trends are what draw children to social media and keep them engaged. But what trends should you keep in mind? We’ve identified five new trends and ways for parents to respond.
- The account they show you, and the ‘private’ accounts they actually use
While you may think you’re following all your child’s social media accounts, there may be some they don’t want you to see. While some children willingly agree to parental monitoring on social media, others feel it’s an invasion of privacy. A growing trend for children is operating two social media accounts – one for Mum and Dad and a secret one for their friends. This trend relates mostly to Instagram and has emerged around the world in recent years. A 2018 study in the United Kingdom revealed one in five children were creating private social media accounts. It’s easy to check if your child is operating a private Instagram account. On their profile, press and hold their profile picture in the bottom right-hand corner. Any alternate accounts will appear in a pop-up. For other social networks, check for other accounts by clicking on their profile picture and settings.
- Harmful or dangerous content
While social media is a great place for children to enjoy content with their friends, sometimes inappropriate or harmful content does circulate their newsfeeds. Recently, explicit content from the Russia-Ukraine conflict spread across social media which inadvertently showed up in the newsfeeds of young children. Ideally, social media companies should protect younger users from harmful content but no platform has managed to get it right. As a result, content moderation comes via users reporting content. Although most social media apps require users to be at least 13 years old to sign up, a per cent of children seven to nine, use social media. There are great online tools available which block or unblock social media during time allocations you choose. It’s also worthwhile regularly checking who your child follows and what pages they engage with.
- The temptation to buy is great than ever
Social media has evolved to become an online marketplace for countless businesses and children are particularly susceptible to the advertising. Instagram now has a designated shopping tab, Facebook has MarketPlace and it’s more than likely your child has seen ads through their social media feed. But what’s most tempting for children are in-app purchases related to games. A study by the University of Leicester in 2016 revealed that the top 25 online games and all social media games contained ads. These ads target young children because it appeals to them progressing in the game for a small price. In some cases, children who have connected bank cards (either their own or their parents’) can begin an expensive habit. It is recommended that bank cards aren’t connected to children’s devices and it’s understood that any purchase is discussed and approved by a parent.
- Gaming is becoming more addictive
It’s likely this isn’t news to parents with young children – they absolutely love games. But this love for games needs to be balanced with a healthy lifestyle which includes face-to-face social interactions, exercise and participation in their education. Games have evolved to keep children always wanting more as developers learn more about interaction. If a child is exposed to games featuring violence, there is also a risk they will become desensitised or exhibit the violence themselves. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry researched the effects of video games on young children and found frequent gaming caused: less time socialising with friends and family; poor social skills as a result; decreased academic performance; and disruption to sleep. To help manage children’s gaming, there are a few useful tips. Firstly, before purchasing a game, check the game rating to ensure it’s age appropriate. Secondly, set up the gaming system in an area of the house that can be easily monitored. Lastly, play the game with them – it’s a great way to bond and the best way to understand what they’re engaging with.
- The metaverse is approaching
Although the younger generation are the best prepared for the metaverse evolution, children certainly don’t understand the potential risks. Why? Because adults aren’t sure of them either. Metaverse is the next phase of the internet which will see us interact with an entirely digital world. We will be digital characters (or avatars) who can roam a digital space, meet up with friends, attend concerts, play games – the possibilities are endless. The issue with metaverse experiences currently is there is no authoritative presence. In the last 12 months, reports have surfaced where young users in the metaverse are suffering virtual sexual assaults. It’s devastating that this occurs but, in its infancy, the metaverse poses serious risks for young users. As a precaution, it’s recommended children only engage in safe spaces of the metaverse under parental supervision.