The digital environment can be both helpful and hostile, especially for children and adolescents. When considering when and how we want to introduce minors into the digital ecosystem, adults can provide them with the necessary knowledge to function.
Oddly enough, the best way to prepare minors for their presence on social networks is to provide them with training in values that teaches them both to respect limits and to set them, and that helps them grow emotionally and develop healthy self-esteem. : this work is essential and parents should not ignore it.
Fathers and mothers can try to get to know in depth the social networks in which minors are going to have a presence and guide their first steps in them. Most likely, they will start with networks such as TikTok or Instagram, which are the ones with the highest penetration in these age segments, as indicated by the latest IAB study . In this sense, a series of observations common to both social networks can be taken into account:
Face the followers
It is important to make sure that the profiles that minors open are private and that they know each person to whom they give access to them. As parents, you should review what contacts you have on those networks, making sure you can put a name and face to all of them, and keep an eye on what people or accounts they are following, to make sure that the content they access is appropriate.
In the same way that minors allow users to access their account, they should feel empowered to kick out those people who do not make them feel good and block and report them if necessary. All social networks have a specific procedure to carry out both actions that minors should know about.
Dopamine and addiction to ‘like’
Social networks and their algorithms are developed to make the user feel rewarded in the form of “likes”, “views” or comments. These activate dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasant sensations and relaxation, and can lead to addiction, as reflected in numerous studies .
Therefore, it is important to control the time that minors spend on social networks and make them see to what extent it is being a productive experience. Along these lines, it is also important to explain to them that they are not slaves to notifications and messages, and that they are the ones who decide how and when to respond to them, if they deem it appropriate.
The presence of minors in social networks usually has a double motivation: social connection with their peers and entertainment. So that the latter can have an instructive and discovery nature, your experience can be guided by suggesting search terms, keywords or users that are representative or relevant to your interests and that may be linked to your hobbies.
All the networks have their own search engines, in which, by entering the keywords, we will find users or profiles specialized in that content. Another way to find interesting accounts is to use Google. For example, if they are passionate about origami, write: social network (Instagram, Tiktok…) + origami.
It is important to alert minors that, for security reasons, they should not share their location in real time, avoiding using geolocation. The most advisable thing is that they upload the content asynchronously. Ideally, someone outside of your circle of friends cannot tell where they are from what they upload.
It is also interesting to teach them to share content only with some of their followers, those who are closest. That way they will have more control over who they share their videos and photos with.
That fathers and mothers have access to their children’s account and see what content they upload is one of the key rules for the use of social media by minors. In this sense, it is important that they understand that what they upload to social networks is shaping their digital footprint and that they must take care of it because it can mark their future.
It is true that minors can create another account that their parents are unaware of, which is why it is essential to create a relationship of trust that favors communication between parents and children, so that, if necessary, they feel that they have their support.
The digitization of minors’ relationships with their peers often makes conversation in the physical world increasingly difficult for them. In fact, they are known as the “Mute Generation” because they prefer to interact through social networks. For this reason, it is key that fathers and mothers facilitate these physical meeting places: associations, extracurricular activities, sports teams in which bonds of friendship can be created beyond the screens, sharing experiences in real life.
In short, the presence of minors in social networks and their leap into the digital world need the support and guidance of their parents, who have the key to laying the foundations in values education, and who have no choice but to fully immerse yourself in the social media in which your children will have a presence in order to accompany them effectively.
Author Bio: Ainhoa Torres Saez de Ibarra has a PhD in Journalism and is Professor of Social Networks at CEU San Pablo University