Most current parents didn’t grow up with any social media at all; even tech in general was less influential in their daily lives. As such, it can be hard to start conversations about social media with your kids (who often seem to know more about it than you do). “Nine out of 10 [6- to 12-year-olds] have access to a smart phone or tablet,” Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis says, and “two out of three actually have their own.” And that’s not necessarily a negative—technology has plenty of educational value, and parents know that. But how do we keep kids safe when this technology is nearly always in their hands?
Facebook has taken measures to help parents stay in control. The app Messenger Kids takes the framework of Facebook Messenger and makes it family-friendly: For a child to add a contact, their parents must approve the request, and the contact’s parents must also approve. All content on the app is designed to be age-appropriate, and the parental screening options ensure kids are only speaking to friends and family members. There are also kid-friendly and fun additions, like filters akin to Snapchat.
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“There’s a call to action to make a better internet for our youngest users, and we took that call to action very, very seriously,” Davis says. On Safer Internet Day (February 6), Facebook launched Parent Conversations, a portal where parents can seek advice regarding internet safety. The portal includes academic research, guidance, interactive polls for users, videos, and more so parents can feel empowered when it comes to guiding their child through the tech world.
“My daughter and I grew up with these technologies as they were just developing, and I often felt overwhelmed,” Davis says. “Having tools like this Parent Conversation or this parents’ portal would have been really helpful to me.”
Having these conversations shouldn’t be an insurmountable effort, though. You just have to start the conversation early. “These technologies have changed the ways families communicate, but the fundamentals of safety are the same,” Davis says. “A lot of the same parenting tools they use offline apply online, and a lot of the same rules that they would tell their child about safety offline apply online.”
For more information on keeping your kids safe online, check out Facebook’s tips at newsroom.fb.com!