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There is no denying social media is amazing – it has opened up the lines of communication, enabling us to interact with friends and family across the world. There are however, many negative aspects to it, particularly for younger people.

This guide aims to help parents understand the different social media platforms and how to keep their children safe when using them.

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60% of all 9-17 year olds have their own social media account

Children & Social Media

Social media is now one of the most popular forms of communication between young people - even though Facebook and other sites have age limits, so technically no one under 13 is supposed to have an account.

Technology has also changed the way teachers interact with their classes. Around 58% of teachers say they use IT in every lesson and 77% welcome the use of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, iPads and smartphones in the classroom to enhance the learning environment.

More than 50% of children have used a social network by the age of 10

71% of 9-17 year olds visit a social media site at least one a week

95% of teens have witnessed someone being mean on social media

Cyber Bullying

Every day across the UK young people are being bullied on social media and feel too embarrassed to speak out about it to their parents or teachers. It is therefore important that adults look out for and recognise the signs that this may be happening.

These signs include: Becoming withdrawn or shy, moody and agitated, showing signs of aggressive behavior and depression; not wanting to go to school, getting into trouble and dropping grades; not using the computer/mobile phone, suddenly changing friends, stopping eating and not sleeping properly.

81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person

22% of teens lost their friendship with someone due to actions on social media

Nearly 2.1 billion adults across the world have social media accounts

Learn First Hand

One of the best ways to learn about social media is to use it yourself, as it will enable you to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ your child and monitor them online. Social networking remains a popular pastime for adults with 60% of users visiting sites more than once a day.

Although Facebook is still the most popular platform for adults, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are seeing significant growth. It is important however for parents to familiarise themselves with sites such as Whatsapp and Snapchat, which are more popular with a younger audience.

66% of adults say they have a social networking profile

33% of all internet-related sex crimes involved social networking sites

Privacy on platforms

Talk to your children about their social media lives, so you can understand what they are doing and what they are sharing. Let them know it is something you want and need to know about and explain to them about the dangers of sharing their password or ‘befriending’ strangers online.

Privacy settings are a way of controlling who can view your child’s information. Make it clear to them that some information should not be posted including your home address, your child’s location and any inappropriate pictures.

43% of young people admitted to messaging strangers from an average age of 12

67% of teenagers say they know how to hide what they do online from their parents

Age Limit13
52% of 8-16 year olds ignored
Facebook’s age limit.


What is it?

Facebook is a free social networking website that started in the US as a way for college kids to stay in touch when they had left campus. It has evolved to become one of the largest social networks in the world.

What can a user do?

Share photos, videos, status updates, check-in, instant message, share personal information, like pages, share interests, write on a friend’s timeline.

Privacy settings

Facebook’s privacy settings are extremely detailed, but users can change them to limit who can see their posts, contact them and add things on their timeline. You can also block certain users, app invites and pages. To view and adjust your privacy settings, click the upper-right corner on the arrow, select ‘Settings’ and then ‘Privacy’, then click a setting to edit.

How to delete your account

You can’t actually delete your account but you can deactivate it. Click the menu at the top right of the Facebook page, select ‘Settings’, click ‘Security’ in the left column, then ‘Deactivate’ your account.

Age Limit13
As of May 2015 Twitter has more than 500 million users


What is it?

Twitter is an online social networking service which launched in 2006 and quickly gained worldwide popularity. By 2012 it had more than 100 million users who posted 340 million messages a day.

What can a user do?

Share views and opinions via 140 character messages called Tweets. Users can also share photos, videos, blog posts, websites. You can also post themed messages by using a hashtag (eg. #XFactor #EggMayoSandwiches) which directs your post to people talking about the same subject.

Privacy settings

To make your account private go to your account settings by clicking on the person icon at the top of the page and selecting ‘Settings’ from the drop down menu. Scroll down to the Tweet privacy section and check the box next to ‘Protect my tweets’, then click ‘Save’ at the bottom of the page.

How to delete your account

To deactivate your Twitter account go to your Account settings > Deactivate my account (at the bottom of the page). Read the account deactivation information and click ‘Okay, fine, deactivate my account’. Following this you’ll be required to enter your password.

Age Limit13
20% of Internet users use Instagram


What is it?

Instagram is an online photo/video-sharing social networking service launched in 2010 as a free mobile app. It was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for approximately $1billion. By 2014 it had more than 300 million users.

What can a user do?

Share photos, videos, follow people, comment on and like posts, send direct messages to followers.

Privacy settings

Users can change their privacy settings to limit whether their profile is public or private. You can also remove followers and block certain users - people aren’t notified when they are blocked - and users can report any inappropriate photos.

How to delete your account

Log into Instagram.com on a desktop computer - you cannot delete it from your mobile application - click your user name and hit ‘Edit Profile’, click the ‘I’d like to delete my account’ option in the bottom right corner.

Age Limit16
In April 2015, WhatsApp reached 800 million active users.


What is it?

Launched in 2009, WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which uses the same internet data plan used for email and web browsing, so there is no cost to message and stay in touch with friends.

What can users do?

In addition to basic messaging, users can create groups, send each other unlimited messages, videos, audio messages and their location by tapping on the up arrow on the left hand side of the text box.

Privacy settings

Your privacy settings will automatically be configured to allow users to view your read receipts, last-seen notifications, profile photo and status. If the user decides not to share their last-seen notifcations, they won’t be able to see other people’s. There is no way to hide your online status. To change these settings, simply go to WhatsApp > Menu Button > Settings > Account Privacy

How to delete your account

To delete your account, open the app and go to WhatsApp Settings > Account > Delete My Account. Enter your phone number in the full international format and tap the ‘Delete My Account’ button.

Age Limit13
11% of Snapchat users are aged between 8 and 16


What is it?

A photo and video sharing app with a twist, as the user gets to decide how long the image will ‘live’ - from 1-10 seconds - after it’s viewed. It is free to download and use.

What can users do?

Share photos, videos and messages with a short shelf life. Users love the spontaneity of it but also need to be aware that there are ways to capture and recover images via a screenshot.

Privacy settings

To manage who can send you photos, you should ensure the default setting to only accept incoming pictures from ‘My Friends’ is selected. To check this, click the Menu button in the lower right corner to access settings. By ‘Send me Snaps’ be sure it says ‘My Friends’. That way, only people you have added or ‘friended‘ can send you media.

How to delete your account

To delete your Snapchat account, visit snapchat.com/a/delete_account and log into your account. You'll then be prompted to enter your password again, then click on the green ‘Delete My Account’ button.

Thanks for reading!

There are many reasons to love social media - it helps us stay in touch with friends and family, share our views and opinions with others and find out useful information quickly. But it should also be used wisely and it is important parents understand what their children are doing on these networks and, perhaps more importantly, who they are speaking to.

We hope this guide has given you some valuable information to help you know what the most popular platforms do and how to keep your children safe when they use them.