Kids on Instagram and social: instructions for parents

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With the sixth grade, but in some cases already with the First Communion, most children receive a smartphone as a gift. The gateway to the world of social networks: Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp the most popular among young people. And if on the one hand we parents of today are much more apprehensive than previous generations, we do not leave the children at home alone, we accompany them everywhere ..., instead we give our mobile phones with a light heart.

"The children have a much higher computer skills than their parents. E in the face of this wisdom, adults retreat, renouncing their role as educators"warns Mauro of the Postal Police, co-author with Michele Facci and Serena Valorzi of the volume" Cyberbullying. Complete guide for parents, children and teachers "(Reverdito).

"Instead it is very important that parents resume their leading role also in the digital field ".

We asked the three authors what advice to give to parents to manage this relationship with social media and how to deal with the problems related to cyberbullying.

  1. Keep up to date on the social networks used by children
  2. Teaching digital empathy
  3. Share content and give clear rules
  4. Team up with other parents
  5. Pay attention to the law
  6. Prevention at home: being a good role model
  7. Teaching affectivity and respect for the body
  8. How to deal with envy
  9. What to do in case of cyberbullying: the role of the school
  10. Offer alternatives

1. Keep up to date on the social networks used by children

"The first thing parents have to do is keep up to date to understand how the social networks used by children work. Ignorance is not allowed" warns Michele Facci, psychologist and technical consultant at the Trento court. In fact, while most adults routinely use Facebook, land new generations prefer Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. 
"Instagram is not easily controllable and is the least private social network because through the hashtags more people can see the image you post. According to the company policy it should not be used (as well as WhatsApp) under 13 years of age. While Snapchat has the feature that content destroys itself even if this is not the case: just take a screenshot or photograph the screen with another mobile phone and the image can continue to live on the network "explains Facci.

Help for parents also comes from the new legislation on cyberbullying, in force since 18 June 2022 provides training sessions for parents and teachers precisely to resume their role as educators in the digital field.

Read also: 10 FUNDAMENTAL rules to educate children in the use of smartphones

2. Teach digital empathy

The fundamental teaching to give to your children when they start using social networks is digital empathy: before writing any comments or posting any images they must learn to ask themselves: "Would I like to receive this comment?".
Then it is also important to make them reflect on the fact that a photo or a writing is put on the net they could damage them when they grow up because, for example, they could end up in the hands of the employer or other people. "We need to teach children digital sensitivity to manage the extended relationships of the web: where everything becomes public and nothing (or almost) is canceled " warns. 

3. Share content and give clear rules

Furthermore, parents must give clear rules on the use of smartphones and expect to see together what their children do on social networks. 
"When you give a kid a mobile phone you can say:" since the card is in our name and we pay for it., we share with you what you do on your phone " suggests Do Us. In this way, parents have the opportunity to educate their children in the correct use of the mobile phone and monitor the emotional responses that may exist. 
And then give rules on the use of the telephone, for example: friendship is not given to someone who does not know one another; you do not post photos of other people without their consent, nor your photos in winking poses or in a bathing suit; you pay attention to what you write; you look at your cell phone only after you have done your homework and no more than half an hour a day; the phone is not kept in the room at night ... In short i parents must lay the foundations for computer literacy, which is essential for defending themselves from the dangers of the Internet. 

4. Team up with other parents

But for these rules to work they should be applied by all parents in the class. "The best time to discuss it could be the first meeting of the year, also asking for the help of teachers and possibly the head teacher in order to establish an educational alliance between all adults" suggests Facci.

5. Beware of the law

From 18 June 2022 the new legislation relating to cyberbullying came into force. "Cyberbullying is not a specific crime, but it is a phenomenology that contains within it different problems attributable to various civil and criminal crimes" he explains. For example, l'' use of personal data without consent is a criminal and civil offense. But if up to the age of 14 children do not answer for criminal offenses, civil ones fall on their parents.

So the parents might find themselves a pay a nice fine if the ten-year-old son posts a photo without permission.

Another thing to know is that if you see your photo published without consent in 48 hours, you can report it to the site manager to remove it, after which you can contact the Guarantor. "But this operation is not always feasible. In fact, there are managers with servers abroad where it is practically impossible to intervene. This is why it is important to prevent. A photo or a text on the net cannot always be deleted" points out .

6. Prevention at home: being a good role model

"Parents must educate children from an early age. Early education takes place through example" explains Serena Valorzi, psychologist and psychotherapist, "if the mother posts on Facebook the photo of her seven-year-old daughter on the beach in a bathing suit, then it is not surprising that when the girl has her cell phone she will post images of herself showing off her body ".
Then a the first thing to do is to avoid exposing children on social media.
It is also important that our children do not always see us with cell phones in hand. And then, when they are small, do not use the screen to appease every moment of annoyance or boredom, like waiting at a restaurant, traveling by car or to quell a whim.

Read also: Mobile phones banned! To play with children you need concentration

7. Teaching affectivity and respect for the body

"It is also essential to educate children about affectivity. In fact, some research has shown how children do through their mobile phones they easily come into contact with pornographic images which give a distorted idea of ​​sexuality and the relationship between men and women. This is why it is important to teach him the respect for one's own and other people's bodies, using the right words based on age. For example, on Valentine's Day it can be said that mom and dad give each other a gift because they love each other, they fell in love when they were younger, they wooed each other and a family was born from love. "

8. How to deal with envy

"The photos you see on Instagram, happy, cool images, which portray a super life (but far from real) and with lots of" likes "provoke in kids the feeling of envy which can arouse sadness and depression or even a malevolent feeling which can lead to a bad comment, or even to a real act of cyberbullying "warns the psychologist.

We need to explain to our children that social media are just containers where everything looks fantastic, even what is not.

Then we can reflect together on the emotions and ask ourselves: "why must we all always be happy?"; and maybe add: "even famous actors who are always smiling in photos have their problems". In short, explain that Instagram is just a showcase and there is no need to give it weight.

Another case that often happens is that a little boy be upset because your photos get few likes. Even in this situation, the parent can help the child to reflect: "perhaps the photos you publish are not suitable and for this reason they are not successful" and then it is time to change mode;
But it could also be a voluntary exclusion by the peer group. In this case it is cyberbullying. If there is this suspicion, it is necessary to check whether the same exclusion is also present in the classroom.

9. What to do in case of cyberbullying: the role of the school

If you realize that your child is a victim of cyberbullying, you must immediately talk to the teachers about it. First of all because the new legislation entrusts the school with a crucial role.

There must be in every plexus a contact person on cyberbullying and teachers are encouraged to update themselves on the subject.
So well-trained teachers have to face the question in class by entering a dimension of understanding of all the parts without simplifying the victim-persecutor binomial (it may be that a persecutor has become such as a victim of previous comments).

The best tool is give everyone the opportunity to express their emotions and do team work to strengthen relationships.

If the situation is particularly complex, the intervention of the school psychologist or an external expert can be requested. But the key thing is that teachers make a network among themselves and with parents to tackle the problem. At the same time it is necessary to strengthen the "victim" to increase his social skills (to be less shy, to relate to everyone ...).

Read also: Cyberbullying: How to prevent violence from ruining the lives of our children. Interview with Anna Oliverio Ferraris

10. Offer alternatives

Today kids spend too much time with the smartphone, several researches have highlighted how this behavior can lead to disorders such as depression. This is why it is important to encourage children to have other social experiences. "Paradoxically, it is better for a guy to go to the disco than to stay in his room chatting all night" warns Michele Facci. "Let's offer them alternatives: a pizza with classmates, an afternoon at the cinema, invite a friend for a snack. Normalize and bring kids back to real life for get them out of that like-like mechanism. Mechanism so dangerously similar to that of gambling addiction ".

Read also: Cyberbullying, what it is and how it can be tackled

Questions and answers

Excessive use of smartphones: how should parents behave? 

Parents must give clear rules on the use of smartphones and expect to see together what their children do on social networks.

  • children and technology
  • social networks
  • Instagram
  • cyberbullying
  • 6-14 children years
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