This year I’ve decided to ask my older son what he wants for his birthday. I was thinking in the line of Chat Noir action figures, or perhaps that new Lego set we saw the other day, but the kiddo caught me off guard when he bluntly replied ‘camera’. There was zero hesitation in his voice. Naturally, I retorted with a ‘why’. My kid looked at me as if I suddenly developed an Alzheimer disease, and replied ‘I want to record a video about the experiments we are making. Just like Ryan did.’ Ah, I thought, he wants to become a YouTuber! I guess there was no way around it, it was time for me to do a little research and prepare myself, as a parent, for the world of social media.
Here’s what I found, and a few extra tips on helping your kids navigate the world of social media.
Becoming a famous YouTuber
While certainly, I did not expect my kids to have the same idols I had growing up, my son’s determination to become a YouTuber at the age of 5 took me by surprise. Sure, the most popular influencers among children these days are YouTube stars.
These children YouTube stars are presenting the new toys and making home experiments, just like Ryan, who, incidentally, is the most popular YouTuber among children. EthanGamer is a great example of a YouTuber who shares his experience playing video games – anything from Roblox Cursed Islands to Minecraft.
Your kid might already use the YouTube Kids app as a viewer. This is a child-friendly version of the original platform that features TV shows, music, educational videos, and other user-created content. However, if your kid (like mine) wants to create videos and have their own YouTube channel, here are a few pointers.
- Make a plan together: What does your kid want to focus on?
- Who’s the audience: Gamers? Kids in general? What age? What do they like?
- Discuss the content: What is appropriate and what is not. What might be interesting to their viewers?
- Write a description together, then help them set up the equipment necessary for recording the video.
When the channel is activated as your child is posting the first video, continue to support him. Talk about how to handle both, positive and negative comments.
Read more: How to Start Your First YouTube Channel
Beat the Challenge on TikTok
Chances are, you’ve done a TikTok challenge with your kid during a COVID-19 lockdown, and you are not alone. A major study led by Qustodio, and reported by Techcrunch, from February 2019 to April 2020 through its parental control app has found that TikTok is almost as popular with kids as YouTube.
But just in case you’ve been off the grid for the past two years, TikTok is a free social media app that allows you to watch, create, and share short videos of lip-synching, sing, dance, or just about anything really.
In general, TikTok requires users to be at least 13, if you are a parent of a kid younger than 18, you must approve their access to the app. In reality, kids much younger than 13 have the access to the app. If your younger kid or tween wants to use the app, there’s a TikTok made section just for them. This section includes additional safety and privacy features, but it is only available in the United States. Kids can only see curated, clean videos, and aren’t allowed to comment, search, or post their videos. However, the lack of these features makes it unappealing for most kids and bypassing that section only requires entering a false birthdate, so it’s not perfect.
Your kid wants to be on TikTok, but you are concerned about their safety? Maybe you could complete a TikTok challenge together!
Children and Social Media – the case of Instagram
There are slim chances you don’t already know, but Instagram is a popular, free social networking app that lets users post photos and videos, follow celebrities and friends, and send messages. Over the years we’ve all been witnesses of how damaging social media can be to our kids’ self-esteem. Therefore, it is vital to talk to your kid about the unattainable beauty standards, filters and Instagram vs. real-life scenarios. Make sure your kid doesn’t tie their self-validation to the number of likes they receive for the content they posted.
As a parent, don’t be alarmed if you learn about rinstas and finstas accounts on Instagram. Finsta stands for “fake Instagram,” and these accounts reflect a true self and is only meant for very close friends to see. Rinsta is a “real” Instagram and it projects one’s ideal online persona that’s hard to achieve in reality. In other words, the “real” account is the public one everyone can find and see. Not every kid maintains more than one account, but don’t be alarmed if your kid does. Be careful not to forbid them to use fake accounts. Sure, have a talk with them about cyberbullying (if you haven’t already). But keep in mind that these finstas and rinstas accounts can be useful tools as kids go through the natural process of figuring out their identities.
Snapchat – Forging Connections with Snapstreak
With global revenue of 1.7 billion US dollars, Snapchat is a very important social media platform. It is the most popular social media site among teenagers and young adults in the United States. During the fourth quarter of 2019, Snapchat reported 218 million daily active users worldwide.
Snapchat allows users to take an instant picture or video known as a “Snap” then augment them with fun filter features, which can change your background, change your voice or add items to your image. The other feature of this app is a “Chat” part which allows users to share their photos or video with selected friends. The content sent on chat is automatically erased, which is very important to teens. Snapstreak is another feature of this app, where two users can snap back and forth within 24h for three days in a row, receiving special emojis and statistics displayed next to the streakers’ names.
Snapchat is a great way for your kids to socialize more, be creative, and have fun, especially during the pandemic. But it can lead to feelings of pressure, anxiety, and compulsion. Talk to your kids about using their Snapchat account safely and responsibly. Discuss how certain situations make them feel and how to avoid the same. Explain that while you understand how important social media is to them, safety should always be their first priority.
Children and Social Media – Offline is as Good as Online
The online world is just as colorful, fun, time-consuming and possibly dangerous as a real world. And while you can attempt to control what your child does in either of the worlds, a much better approach would be to educate them on the various possibilities these worlds have to offer. You can start by laying down the foundations of what is good, what could be harmful, and what is still not appropriate for their age. Understanding their curiosity is vital, so let them explore, but make sure the parental controls are on as they browse through the online world. Also, explain to them that their self-image should not be tied to the likes, filters, comments or current trends.
Not everything needs recording and posting on social media. Show them how great it could be to go out and explore nature without accompanying gadgets. Rather than being validated by the photo, they took while on a walk through nature, their own opinion and self-evaluation should be a priority.
Bottom line? Create a good foundation in the offline world so you can be sure that your child is safe on social media.
This article is part of our series on Generation Alpha
We seek to provide answers to your most pressing questions about keeping your kids safe online, introducing them to the digital world, and helping them be their authentic selves online.
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