No parent wants their child to feel excluded, but we also understand that one of our key tasks is to keep our children safe. This paradox is abundantly clear when it comes to managing the persistent requests (which can seem a lot like nagging) for access to various online games or social media platforms. In this article, we’ll give you some advice that will help you make a decision around when (and if) you should concede.
“Everyone else has Snapchat!”
“I’m the only one in my class not allowed to play Fortnite!”
“I’m getting left out because you won’t let me have TikTok!”
You may have heard multiple variations of these pleas from your child and you’re certainly not alone. Here are our top tips for managing device-driven nagging.
Written by Cyber Expert:
Is My Child Really the ‘Only One’?
Probably not - but can you blame them for trying? The truth of the matter is, depending on your child’s age, the platform they’re asking to use, and their social group- they may be one of only a small handful that are not allowed to participate. When the online activity in question is dominating the topic of conversation and manner of interaction in your child’s friendship group, they may be left feeling excluded or isolated. This of course does not mean that you need to cave and give them access to whatever it is they are asking for, but it is worth considering some of the things below.
Get Familiar with the Platform They’re Asking For
If your child is asking you to play an online game or use a particular social media or messaging app, a good first step is to gain some level of understanding of what the platform is about and what it allows users to do. You can find detailed descriptions of trending platforms under the ‘Parent Advice’ section of this website or succinct overviews under ‘App & Game Reviews’. This will give you an indication of what issues (if any) you may have with your child using the platform and will allow you to answer the inevitable follow-up question- “Why not?”, if you say no to them using it.
Review Expert Age Recommendations
Reviewing age recommendations from experts is a simple way to quickly gauge whether you should even be entering into the conversation of allowing your child to use the platform. You can search for our Cyber Expert app age recommendations under ‘App & Game Reviews’. Be mindful that there is no blanket age that can be applied to every child when it comes to giving them access to a particular game or social media platform. Things to consider are:
Are they likely to follow the boundaries you set around them using the platform (such as privacy settings, who they can interact with, or when they can access the platform)?
Are they likely to let you know if they run into an issue on the platform (such as inappropriate content, unwanted contact, or someone being unkind)?
Are they likely to behave appropriately on the platform (e.g. not overshare, be kind to other users, etc.)?
Do they have the technical skills and understanding to use in-platform controls (such as privacy settings, block, and report tools) properly?
Do they understand what content/information is OK and not OK to share online?
Get Feedback from Friendship Group Parents
One of the issues that many face is a discrepancy between what you allow your child to do online, and what other parents in your community allow their children to do. If your tween is complaining that they are the only one in their friendship group not allowed on Instagram, then their friends' parents may be a valuable source of information, with experience in having a child of a similar age using the platform in question. At the very least, this can be a good way to verify whether or not your child is the ‘only one’ not using the platform, and gently bring up the topic of cyber safety with other parents in your community without administering hard-line unsolicited advice.
Have Them Do the Research
If you are beginning to consider giving your child access to whatever online platform they’ve been asking for, don’t miss the valuable opportunity to have them address some of your concerns. Asking your child to put together a presentation or letter explaining: why they would like to use the platform, identifying safety risks, and proposing rules and strategies that they will follow to keep themselves safe; presents a valuable opportunity for education and a catalyst for rule-setting.
Full disclosure- you can expect a bias report from your child, so have your own research ready to bring to the conversation.
Know That It’s Not ‘All or Nothing’
Just because you agree to let your child use a given online platform does not mean that you have to give them complete and unrestricted access. Generally, if kids have been asking (repeatedly) to use a platform, they are so ecstatic at the prospect of you saying yes that they are willing to negotiate on what that ‘access’ might look like. This is the perfect opportunity to set your rules and boundaries upon which access is contingent. Some suggestions to consider:
Setting up the account using your email address, so that you can gain access if needed.
Setting boundaries around who they are allowed to communicate and interact with through the platform.
Ensuring their privacy settings are properly implemented.
Designating times and places where they can/can’t use the platform.
Establishing how you will supervise them on the platform.
I’ve Decided the Answer is ‘No’- Now What?
You’ve done your research and you have ultimately decided that you are not comfortable with your child using the game/app that they’ve been asking for. How do you break the news to them?
Start with the why- gently explain to them that although you never want them to feel left out, it’s your job to help them stay safe and you think that for reasons x, y, and z, allowing them to have the game/app is not what’s best for their health, safety or wellbeing.
Be understanding and empathetic to the fact that they will likely be disappointed by your decision.
Offer an olive branch- To help soften the blow, it can be a good idea to have something else that you can offer them. This could be anything from organizing a special activity to giving dinner picking rights.
Be open to alternatives- ask them if there are any alternative games/apps that they are also interested in that may be safer.
How to deal with digital break-downs.
What parents need to know.
Age-appropriate app reviews and recommendations from the experts.