Do you have an 8-yr-old? It’s a wonderful age – they’re not yet teenagers who prefer grunting than talking, and they’re not babies who cry all the time (no offence to teens or babies by the way, I actually love both most of the time!). Eight year olds are capable enough to help themselves in many ways, yet they’re still innocent and if they’re anything like my children, still believe in magical stuff like the Easter Bunny, Santa and the tooth fairy.
The challenge with 8-yr-olds when it comes to the digital world is that they’re tech-savvy enough to see and do a lot online, but they don’t yet have the life experience they need to be safe there. It’s a bit like babies who have the physical ability to poke knives into power points but not the understanding of how dangerous it is to do that.
If you want to know how to keep your 8-yr-old safe online you’re in the right place – keep reading!
Eight-Year-Olds Like To Share
Children as young as eight see no reason for secrecy, and love sharing everything they know with everyone they know. They don’t consider any information as personal, and they don’t understand the risks involved in sharing personal information. In fact if you were to ask an 8-year-old what information is personal, many may struggle to answer that question.
According to information from the Office of Children’s E-Safety Commissioner, 39% of 8-year-olds who are already using social media have shared their real surname there. Of course 8-year-olds are not meant to be using social media at all given the minimum age requirements on most social media platforms of 13 years or more, but most children don’t worry too much about the legalities and can easily work around the age restrictions.
Further to this, 24% of 8 year olds using social media post photos of their school or uniform, and 8% go as far as sharing their phone number and/or street address.
What’s the problem with this? After all, how many parents share photos of their children in school uniform all over Facebook?
Information such as surnames, identifying features of what school or sporting club your child attends, and definitely phone numbers and home addresses all make it very easy for strangers to locate your child.
Back in 2011, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI Shawn Henry estimated there were about 750,000 child predators online at any given time. It’s scary to imagine that this crazy number is growing all the time. Although there are measures in place to find and arrest these predators, authorities simply don’t have the capacity to catch a significant percentage of them.
While not all predators are out to find your child, they are actively looking for children they can potentially groom. Their ultimate goal is to meet with your children and ideally conduct in some form of sexual behaviour with them, and most are very good at what they do.
The fact is that there are a lot of unsavoury people online who are not who they say they are, and eight year old children don’t understand that. The thing we love most about our children (their innocence) is also what makes them vulnerable online. When children share too much information about themselves online they are like an open book, unintentionally and unknowingly almost inviting predators in.
How 8-Year-Olds Use Social Media
An 8-year-old should not be using social media at all. They don’t have the emotional intelligence required to set up a positive social media footprint. In other words, they’re highly likely to share comments, images and videos without thinking, and their behaviour online can easily lead to cyber bullying, predators and other risks inherent in the online world. An 8-year-old is capable of doing anything that a 6-yr-old can do online and more.
However if their friends are on Snapchat, Instagram or any other platform, your child won’t want to be left out. Peer pressure is a very powerful thing, and is usually more powerful than you telling your children not to go there.
Social Media Settings
Social media settings should always be set to private, so that only “friends” can see what’s being posted. However the Young and Social Online research from the Office of Children’s E-Safety Commissioner revealed that 9% of 8-yr-olds on social media have their profile set to public.
While using private settings in social media still isn’t entirely safe, it’s much better than a potential 3 billion people seeing what your 8-year-old has shared!
Social Media Accounts
According to the same research, children aged between 8 and 13 have two active social media accounts on average. It’s worth noting that while some children may be on Facebook, for most this is not their preferred social media platform, main reason being that you’re there! Facebook is much more popular with adults than with children.
While children often do have Facebook accounts they’re not likely to be most active there. Some have an account on Facebook that you can see where they occasionally post and share things, and then have another account you don’t know about where more of the activity is happening.
The more popular social network platforms for children these days are Snapchat and Instagram, however there are many other platforms and apps they like to use. And of course once you figure out what they’re using they can be quick to switch to the latest, leaving you wondering what they’re getting up to.
What You Can Do To Keep Your 8-Year-Old Safe Online
The key to keeping your 8-year-old child safe online revolves around improving communication with them, and in education for both you and your child. The more you can learn about cyber safety, the more you can guide your child to be safe, healthy and happy online.
The quickest and easiest way to get reliable information to truly help you keep your children safe online is by registering for my next live webinar here. You can watch it live as it happens or if you’re not available you can watch the replay at a time that suits you. The webinar is free and is a huge step you can take for your 8-year-old child. I look forward to seeing you there!