Top tips for kiwi digi-kids
Even tiny toddlers these days seem to have no trouble swiping through the photos on Mum or Dad’s smartphone. And they might have discovered touchscreen jigsaw games, just right for little fingers learning to drag and drop.

But, because they’re so young, they need you to be involved and engaged, offering guidance and supervision – just as they do in the real world. Putting ground rules in place now helps them become part of the family routine.

Under-5 simple checklist:
Start setting some boundaries now – use a timer to set limits for the amount of time they can spend on the computer.
Supervise all their screen time – a child under 5 is too young to be left alone with a device, tempting as it may be to use the Tablet as a babysitter!
Keep devices like your mobile out of reach and make sure you have passwords/PINs set up on them before you lend them to your child… or for when they simply get hold of them themselves!
Check the age ratings or descriptions on apps, games, online TV and films before streaming or downloading them and allowing your son or daughter to play with or watch them.
Explain your technology rules to grandparents, babysitters and the parents of your child’s friends so that they also stick to them when they’re looking after your child.
Remember that public Wi-Fi (e.g. in cafés) might not have Parental Controls on it – so, if you hand over your Tablet to your child while you’re having a coffee, they might be able to access more than you bargained for.
Set the homepage on your family computer or tablet to an appropriate website like Fun with Spot or Sesame Street.
Work together to create your own Digi-Family Agreement, with rules you can all agree to.

How to make social networking safer.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter let teens socialise online. Here’s how to review privacy settings for your peace of mind.

5 simple steps to making Facebook safer.

Ask your teenager to log in using their email address and password. Click the down arrow at the top right corner of their newsfeed page to access ‘Settings’.
Under ‘Settings’(found in the left hand column on a desktop computer), the ‘Privacy’ page lets you control who can see and find your teen’s posts. Select ‘Who Can Contact Me?’ to restrict who can befriend your teen or make friend requests.
Use the ‘Blocking’ setting to block invites, users and app requests. You can also create a ‘restricted’ list. Users you have selected to be on this list will only be able to see a very limited version of your teen’s profile.
‘Timeline and Tagging’ will help you to control the photos and posts your teen is tagged in. You can manage who can post on their timeline, who can see their timeline and what happens when they are tagged in a post. To check how others see your teen’s timeline, go to their Facebook page and click on the down arrow situated beside the ‘Activity Log’ bar. Click on ‘View As’, type in a name from your teen’s friends list and you’ll see how their profile appears to that specific friend.
The apps setting will let you control what information gets shared through games and apps such as Candy Crush. You can also block invites to download apps or play games from specific users.
Facebook is also available as a mobile app for Android and iOS devices, and the privacy settings are dictated by how you set up your teen’s Facebook account on the computer. If you alter your privacy settings, the change is universal and will affect how people view your teen’s Facebook via the app or on the website.


Your child needs to be 13 years old to have a Facebook account.
Facebook is a public platform. If your teen removes a post or photo they are tagged in from their timeline, it will still be visible elsewhere on the site.
You can use the ‘Report’ button (on the drop down menu to the right of every post) to report offensive content to Facebook.
For more help and information, check out Facebook’s Parents’ Centre.
Privacy rules can change from time to time. Check that your or your child’s settings are up to date here
Ask your teenager to log in, now access ‘Security and Privacy’ settings:

In the Twitter app, tap “Me” in the navigation bar. Now tap the “sprocket” icon next to your profile picture, then select “Settings”. Tap on an Account name to access Privacy and Security settings.
On the Twitter website, click the profile picture on the top-right, then “Settings” in the drop-down menu that appears. Now select “Security and privacy” from the left-hand menu.
For the most secure settings, follow these steps:
Login verification – select ‘Send Login Verifications To My Phone’ and enter your phone number.
Password reset – check this box to ensure additional personal information is required when a password is reset.
Tweet privacy – check this box so that no one can read your teen’s tweets without their prior approval.
Tweet location – leave this box unchecked to prevent location details being included in tweets.
Discoverability – leave both boxes unchecked to prevent people finding details of your teen by email address or phone number.
Promoted content – leave this box unchecked to prevent Twitter using your personal information to tailor adverts.
Reporting abusive Tweets – on the far right of a Tweet select ‘More > Report Tweet’ to report the content to Twitter admin.
YouTube is a fantastic place for young people to exercise their natural curiosity. This video explains why – and how we can protect our young people from inappropriate content.

Go to any YouTube page. Near the foot of the page is a ‘Safety’ button. Click to open the ‘Preferences’ setting. Turn ‘SafetyMode’ ON and click ‘Save’.

You can also apply SafeSearch Filtering in the YouTube App. Tap the Menu icon, then the Sprocket icon to access Settings. Now tap ‘SafeSearch Filtering’ to switch between no filtering and strict filtering.

If you have a YouTube account, you can sign into your account and lock on ‘SafetyMode’ so that no one else can change the settings.


Your child needs to be at least 13 years old to have a YouTube account, but you don’t need to have an account to access most of the videos on the site.
To lock SafetyMode you need to have a Google or YouTube account.
If you or your child come across an inappropriate video, you can report it by clicking the ‘Flag’ button located below the video.
For more information, click here.

Google SafeSearch.
As they get older, your kids will be doing research online to help with homework. Here’s how to keep adult content out of their search results.

Go to Google and type a keyword in to the search box. Click ‘Search’ and the gear icon will appear on the top right-hand corner of the page. Click on the gear icon, then on ‘Search Settings’ from the drop-down menu.
On the ‘Search Settings’ page, tick the ‘Filter explicit results’ box, then click ‘Save’ at the bottom
of the page. If you don’t have a have a Google account, create one, so you can lock SafeSearch on your family’s computer. Then, once you’ve clicked ‘Lock SafeSearch’, no one except you can change the settings.
When SafeSearch is locked in place, you’ll see a set of coloured balls at the top right-hand corner of all search pages. If you can’t see them, SafeSearch is NOT locked.
If you use more than one browser, you will need to set Google SafeSearch on each one. Likewise, if you have different user profiles for everyone who uses your family computer, you’ll need to set up SafeSearch for each of them.
For more info on Google’s family safety policies and features, click here.

You might also be interested in How To: Set controls on Smart Phones

Top tips for kiwi digi-kids
5 to 7 year olds might enjoy catching up with their favourite TV and cartoon characters on websites like Nick Jr or Hairy Maclary, for example.

On the move, parents can keep kids entertained with games like Xbox or Playstation and by playing age-appropriate apps like SmackTalk or Top Dog together on a smartphone.

Even if they’re just doing something for fun, these kinds of devices and websites can help to teach younger children important skills, such as how to type, how to count, how to improve their hand and eye co-ordination, and how to read.
Age 5-7 simple checklist:
Sit with your child and get involved when they’re using the computer and other devices like games consoles – make it fun!
Set up SafeSearch on your child’s computer – but remember, they might not be 100% effective and they aren’t a substitute for parental supervision.
Don’t assume that your child is only accessing age-appropriate services and websites – they could be influenced by older siblings to go on to sites like YouTube (which have a minimum age limit of 13) or they might have figured out how to use your mobile.
Start teaching them why it’s important to keep their personal information to themselves.
Stay in control of their screen time and don’t be pressured into letting your child use technology like mobiles or games consoles if you don’t think they’re mature enough.
Encourage them to come to you if anything they see online worries or upsets them. For young children, the internet and mobile devices are simply fun – sometimes educational, but mostly fun.
Work together to create your own Digi-Family agreement, with rules you can all agree to.

Helping children (and their parents!) to enjoy their new mobile world
So you’ve decided together it’s the right time to get a phone for your young person to take out into the world. As our partners The Parenting Place say in their article, Is your child ready for a cell phone? “You can and should set some limits around cell phone use. Let them know that even if they buy the phone and pay the bills themselves… its use is still subject to your house rules.”

Reasonable rules might include:

Phones off at mealtimes and after 9pm.
No phones in bed.
Consider a ‘charger basket’ where everyone’s phones go at night.
Let them know that cell phones (and internet use) are a privilege, not a right.
You reserve the right to review their inbox, outbox and address book.
That last point comes with a clear parenting point of view: that privileges come from trust, and trust comes from transparency. That’s why it’s vital to earn each other’s trust, ideally by setting up expectations in advance. Here’s some advice that might come in very handy:

Set up an agreement, check it regularly. Download an example of a new-phone-in-the-family agreement from The Parenting Place: Our cell phone contract. Work through your agreement as a team, with your child. Be upfront and honest about what you all expect, and agree to stick to it.
Help your teen or pre-teen keep themselves safe, by setting up smartphone controls, and learning about how to manage sexting and cyber bullying.
Make sure everyone can stay in touch. Set up your family’s mobile numbers as BestMate numbers on your home phone so calls to them won’t be charged
If they’re near driving age, remind them – frequently – that it’s a really bad idea (as well as illegal) to use their phone while driving. Encourage them to use tools like Drive Safe
And don’t forget to have some fun! Set them up with some great apps for kids!

From access control to Wi-Fi, we’ve got all the jargon, busted.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the technical terms you’re likely to come across. But as you know, things change pretty fast in the digital age, so we’d love your help to keep this list current. Add terms of your own in the community section below.

  • Access control / filter: A bar that is put in place by e.g. an internet or mobile provider to prevent access to certain content
  • Application (app): A piece of software, often designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices
  • Bluetooth: A way of exchanging data over short distances between mobile devices
  • Browser: Allows access to the Web (e.g. Google Chrome or Internet Explorer)
  • Burn: The process of copying files (eg music) from your computer onto a CD
  • Cloud computing: Software services and applications that are provided via the internet rather than installed on your computer (e.g. iCloud)
  • Coding: Another word for computer programming
  • Cookie: A piece of text stored on your computer by a Web browser that remembers information about you, such as websites you’ve visited
  • Crowdsourcing: A way of outsourcing tasks to a group of people online
  • Digital footprint: The trail you leave from digital activities and interactions, such as Web searches and uploaded photos
  • Drag and drop: Where a virtual object is selected and moved to a different location
  • Encryption: The security process of making electronic data unreadable to anyone without the ‘key’
  • Geo-tagging: Where geographical identification data is added to things like photos or online messages via a GPS device, such as a smartphone
  • GPS (Global Positioning System): A global navigation satellite system used for things like in-car navigation
  • Hacker: Someone who breaks into other people’s computers
  • Hackathon: A ‘hacking marathon’ during which computer programmers work together intensively (e.g. non-stop for 24 hours) on the development of new software
  • IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity): A unique number on your mobile, usually printed inside the battery compartment
  • In-app purchase: Additional content and features available for purchase once you’re using an app
  • IP address (Internet Protocol address): A unique number that identifies where you’re accessing the internet from
  • ISP: Internet Service Provider
  • Malware: Malicious software, such as viruses and worms, that infiltrate computers
  • Memory stick: A portable device for storing data and transferring it between devices
  • MP3: MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 – a common format for digital music files
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): A network on which users can share files, such as music & movies; often illegally
  • Phishing: Unsolicited emails or texts sent in an attempt to get personal information (e.g. passwords and credit card details) from you
  • PIN (Personal Identification Number): A way of locking your mobile and other devices
  • Plug-in: A set of software components that add capabilities to a larger software application (e.g. a video plug-in in a Web browser)
  • Premium rate (or phone-paid service): A paid mobile service (e.g. ringtone downloads or competition entries)
  • Rogue app: A piece of malicious software disguised as a mobile Web application
  • Spam: Unsolicited email or text messages
  • Spyware: A type of malicious software that collects information about you without your knowledge
  • Stream ripping app: A way of saving MP3 files from streamed music on the internet on to a computer
  • Tablet: A mobile computer, such as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab
  • Tag: A way of assigning a piece of information or an image to a particular person
  • Wi-Fi: Broadband without wires

How to set up smartphone controls.
Smartphones are a big part of your child’s increased independence. Here’s how to keep on top of their mobile lives.

Parental Controls are called ‘Restrictions’ on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Restrictions stop you from using certain features and applications, block access to adult websites, or only allow access to a list of permitted websites.
Tap Settings > General > Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. You can use the passcode to change your settings or turn off Restrictions. If you lose or forget your Restrictions passcode, you will need to perform a factory restore to remove it – so make a note of it!
Using restrictions: You can restrict access to applications and features, including Safari, camera (also disables FaceTime), iTunes Store, iBooks Store, installing apps, deleting apps, in-app purchases, Siri, AirDrop, and CarPlay. Some apps allow “extras” to be purchased within the game or activity, using your iTunes Store account, without explicit authorisation. Learn how to use restrictions to protect your iTunes Store account from unintentional or unauthorised purchases. Follow Apple’s instructions here.
Content types: You can prevent access to specific content types including ratings (select the country in the ratings section to automatically apply the appropriate content ratings for that region), Music and Podcasts, Movies, TV shows, Books, apps, Siri, Websites, and the time necessary before a password is required to purchase content.
Privacy settings: You can prevent changes to privacy settings, including location services, contacts, calendars, reminders, photos, Bluetooth sharing, microphone, Twitter, Facebook, and advertising.
Settings and accounts: You can prevent changes to settings and accounts, including accounts, Find My Friends, cellular data use, background app refresh, and volume limit.
Game Center: You can restrict features within Game Center, including multiplayer games and adding friends.
Manage your child’s account: If your kids are over 13 or have accounts through the Apple ID for Students programme, you may want to explore the possibility of allowing them to make purchases from iTunes using iTunes Gifts or a monthly allowance.
How to control the type of apps downloaded to the phone:

First, click on Google’s Play Store app to launch it. It’s pre-installed on all Android phones.
In the top right-hand corner of the screen, there are three small blocks sitting on top of each other. Click on them to reveal a drop-down menu, then choose ‘Settings’.
Now, under the ‘User Controls’ menu, you’ll find an option for ‘Content filtering’ – this lets you choose a maturity level for the apps you’ll be able to download – they’re rated for ‘Everyone’, ‘Low maturity’, ‘Medium maturity’, high maturity’ or ’Show all apps’. Once you’ve made your choice, only apps you’ve deemed appropriate can be downloaded to the phone.
Set a password for app purchases.
Android’s default setting requires you to enter a password before downloading an app. To change this go to the ‘user controls’ menu and click on ‘Require password for purchases’, You’ll get three options for when a password is needed to buy apps: ‘For all purchases through Google Play on this device’, ‘Every 30 minutes’, or ‘Never’.

Prevent apps from revealing your location.

Click on the applications icon at the bottom right of your phone’s home screen.
From the ‘Settings’ menu, choose ‘Location and Security’.
Choose ‘Off’ to prevent apps from revealing your location.
You might also be interested in How to: Set controls on Social Media

How much time should kids be allowed to spend online?
Screen time is really important to young people. After all, it’s a huge part of their social life. Just as kids of the 1970s and 80s would spend hours hogging the family landline, kids of today are spending that time chatting online.

But being a digi-savvy parent means having a chat about screen time, and setting a few expectations.

Things to discuss include:

how long they’re allowed on the device, and when (eg after homework and jobs are done)
what kind of websites they can visit
which games they’re allowed to play
and how much money they can spend on things like texts, calls, downloads and apps.
Work the rules out together, and you’ll have a better chance of everyone sticking to them. Consider putting a digital agreement in place when your child gets new a device.
Managing screen time: how much is too much?
Young people seem to be spending hours on the internet, their mobiles and games consoles. So it can be difficult to know what’s okay, and how much is too much.

There is no golden rule or magic formula – some experts say two hours a day should be the maximum, others say it depends on what your child is actually doing online.

If your child is doing well in school, playing sport or other online hobbies, has friends, and seems happy and healthy, you probably have the balance about right.

“”“For those that say boys can’t multitask, they have not seen my son use Facebook, text friends and watch TV all at the same time. I am very aware of the importance of limiting his screen time to bring balance to his life and to encourage other activities. I also have to be clear that TV and games on his phone are included in his allocated screen time, rather than on top of his screen time. We have drawn up an agreement which has been a really useful ally and it means that if he wants more screen time there is a process in place for him to earn that.” – Zane
Setting and enforcing time limits is never easy – especially when you add teenage emotions into the mix! But part of being a digi-parent is being able to enforce rules despite any negative reaction you might receive.

Here’s Dave from The Parenting Place with some tips to help manage screen time in your house.

7 simple ways to keep screen time in check:
Pay attention to how much time your child spends online and what they are doing. Is it increasing rapidly or interfering with their offline life?
Remember the rules apply to you too, Mum and Dad! Don’t be checking your email over dinner if you’ve told the kids no texting at the table. Kids are sensitive to hypocrisy.
Recognise any underlying problems that may be supporting internet addiction. Is your child feeling left out at school or going through distress in another area of their life? They could be using the internet to cope.
Modify the time your child spends online step by step. Make a commitment to turn off devices at the same time each night, or instigate a family ‘charging basket’ where devices have to sleep at night. You could also set limits on using electronic devices until after chores are completed.
Organise offline activities and opportunities to balance out time in front of a screen.
Get support from partners and other family members. The more face-to-face relationships your child enjoys, the less they will need to turn to the internet for social interaction. Find common interest groups such as a sports team, music class or club.
Try using a digi agreement to put some guidelines in place.
Obsessive internet use.
Are you really concerned about your child’s internet use? According to leading US psychiatrist Dr Jerald Block, there are four signs that could point to obsessive internet use:

Excessive use – losing track of time or neglecting to eat or sleep.
Withdrawal – e.g. feelings of anger, tension or depression.
Tolerance – wanting a better computer or more hours online.
Negative repercussions – e.g. arguments, lies, isolation and tiredness.
Don’t panic if your teenager is showing some or all of these signs. They are probably being a normal teenager. Talk to your teenager to find out whats going on.

You can seek help here.

Do you know your net lingo from your text speak?

The key to protecting your child online is to equip yourself with a basic understanding of the things they do and say on the internet. Here are a few acronyms to get you started.

  • ADR: Short for ‘address’. Be careful and check your child isn’t sharing personal details online.
  • AF: Short for ‘as f*ck’. Often used in a positive context like “Cool AF”.
  • ASL: Stands for ‘age, sex, location’. This could mean your child is using an anonymous chat room.
  • BAE: Short for ‘before anyone else’ usually used as a term of endearment.
  • DM: Direct Message. Often used as a request – “DM me!” – to take a conversation out of a ‘public’ domain (like Facebok wall) and into ‘private’ (a private message).
  • Catfish: Meeting someone online, then meeting in person and discovering they aren’t who they say they are. They are the Catfish.
  • Fleek/On fleek: This means perfect, “Her outfit was on fleek.”
  • FML: F— my life – a term of frustration.
  • FOH, GTFO: These stand for “F— Outta Here” and “Get The F— Out.” They both are terms used to dismiss whatever is being referenced.
  • FOMO: Fear of missing out – often posted in response to what other people are up to, as a self-deprecating joke at one’s own jealousies and insecurities.
  • FTW: Started as a gaming acronym, For The Win means cool or good.
  • Ghosting: The act of ceasing communication suddenly. “I loved him but he ghosted me.”
  • I’m Out or #ImOut: Just like in a game of cards, when an opponent has such a great hand that you throw down your cards and say “I’m out”, this is basically a way of relaying the fact that a user thinks something someone has posted is so insane, ridiculous, awesome or offensive that the other player wins.
  • IMO/IMHO: In my opinion / In my humble opinion.
  • IRL: Stands for ‘in real life’ – worrying if your child is using it in the context of meeting someone they have met online, i.e. MIRL (‘meet in real life’) or LMIRL (‘let’s meet in real life’).
  • Netflix and Chill: ‘Hook up’ as Netflix runs in the background.
  • NVM: Text speak for never mind.
  • OH or RLRT: These stand for “overheard” or “Real-Life Retweet” and are used to reference something that a user has overheard in their real life. They are generally used in reference to shocking, odd or funny snippets of overheard conversations.
  • POS or MOS: Means ‘Parents over shoulder’ or ‘Mum over shoulder’. Similarly, CD9 means ‘code nine’, which implies parents are around; or KPC, which stands for ‘keep parents clueless’.
  • PRON: A deliberate misspelling of ‘porn’, to try and get round a web search being detected by automatic filtering system.
  • RT: Short for “retweet”, which means you didn’t write the tweet yourself, you are sharing someone else’s tweet. RT is placed at the start of the text you intend to share.
  • Ship: Short for a romantic relationship. “I see a ‘ship developing between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.”
  • SMH: Shake my head, meaning something is shocking, or you’re looking at something with shame or disbelief.
  • TMI: Too much information – also known as over-sharing. Some things are better left unsaid!
  • TBH: To be honest, a common text and email acronym, but can also be used before an “honest” viewpoint on images or comments on blogs/forums.
  • #: The hashtag symbol works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way of grouping and identifying posts with the same subject or theme. Try looking up a few of the following hashtags and you’ll start to get an idea.
  • #FF: Follow Friday is a Twitter hashtag with the aim of drumming up more followers for someone on Twitter. For example, if you want to support a musician, politician, or anyone else you think is interesting, simply tweet a message listing their username (as in @username) along with the #FF hashtag. This is usually done in list form, so others who trust that person’s judgment can easily start following a bunch of interesting new accounts.
  • #ICant, #ICantEven #Cryin #ImCrying and #Dead: These hashtags, and similar variations of them, are all a little bit misleading, but once you get one you can pretty much understand them all. Basically, when someone posts #ImDead, #Crying, #ICant or another similar hashtag, it means that something is hilarious, or very shocking.
  • #TBT: Throwback Thursday is a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook hashtag, which has become a fun opportunity for people to share photos and info that is a “throwback” to an earlier time. For instance, on Instagram, posting a really old picture of yourself, or on Twitter telling a short quip about something in your past. This is a fun way for people to learn a little bit more about each other, and to reminisce about the past.
  • #YOLO: This is an abbreviation for “You Only Live Once.” It can be interpreted in a number of ways, but most often indicates an activity that shows someone is living on the edge. But things change fast online, and these days it tends to be used more sarcastically.

“”“My teenage daughter is very connected socially and has her own blog, instagram and snapchat etc. I have asked her what different hashtags she uses mean and then as a bit of a joke between us I will slip those into the occasional text like #Ibettergoforarun (attached to a picture of an ice cream). I am careful I don’t overuse it but I think it makes her feel I get her more” – Maria

How to keep your kids safer when they’re messaging.

Just when you’ve got texting sussed, everyone’s switched to messenger. New apps come along and become popular very quickly so stay involved to know what your children are using – Check out some of today’s most popular apps listed at the bottom of the page.

Instant messaging (sometimes called IM) is a blend of email, webcam or chat that you can send to someone in real-time via the internet. You can use the computer or tablet, but the channel of choice for modern teens is the smartphone.

Facebook Messenger is a great choice for parents too, because you can see whether or not they’ve read your message, even if they haven’t replied yet.

With instant messaging, the same common sense safety rules apply as in other digital worlds. Check the privacy settings are appropriate, and talk to your child about being digi-savvy. That means not using their real name on a public profile, never adding a location to messages or photos, and never accepting a follower or friend whom they don’t know in real life.

It’s also worth remembering that many messaging apps work on multiple devices, so don’t think that your child can’t chat to their friends just because you’ve taken away their mobile!

Remind young people that messaging may feel like a private chat, but it’s not. Children write and respond fast and the images, acronyms and emoticons they use can lead to miscommunications and the wrong people viewing messages. Encourage them to stop and think for a second each time they hit ‘send’.

Simple instant messaging safety tips.

  1. If they’re using chat rooms, choose a non-identifiable, non-gender-specific screen name – and keep it clean.
  2. Avoid giving out personal details, such as your real name or email address.
  3. Don’t accept files or downloads from people you don’t know, including URLs.
  4. Be extra careful with any contact request from friends of friends or people you don’t know.
  5. Never arrange to meet someone IRL (In Real Life) or reveal your actual location.
  6. Learn how to save copies of your conversations. Use the screenshot key, or Apple key, Shift and 3.
  7. Don’t send mean messages or incite others to either. Remember messages you send are permanent and cannot be deleted.
  8. Talk to your kids about how you expect them to behave online. This can also include the type of language you expect them to use or not to. Use the “In our family we…” statement.

The top messaging services.

A social network where people can ask each other questions, anonymously. The settings can be changed so people can’t ask questions without identifying themselves. There’s a ‘report’ abuse button. Children must be over 13 to use it.

Facebook Messenger

Lets users message each other for free via the Facebook site or a mobile app. It’s a great choice for parents to communicate with kids, because you can see a little message that says ‘Delivered’ or ‘Read’ when they’ve received or read your message.

Group Text

An app that sends mass texts (on iPhone) or mass iMessages (on all devices) to everyone on a list (like everyone in your family, for instance). Once you create a list, you no longer have to select contacts one-by-one for a group message. Just tap on the list or group name and you’re ready to send.


A chat service designed specifically for smartphones, that uses usernames rather than phone numbers.


Free photo-sharing app where users decide how long the image will live (1-10 seconds) after it’s viewed. But – and this is very important – the image can still be captured by taking a screenshot ,or downloaded using a special app. Make sure your kids realise nothing is truly ‘private’. You have to be over 13 to use Snapchat.


Viber offers free texting, calling and photo messages between other Viber users.


WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app where users can create groups and send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. It’s currently free of advertising.


Another smartphone-specific chat service that uses voice messages, texts, and images. It also allows group chats.


Another anonymous social network, YikYak works by allowing people to post anonymous updates that can then be viewed by people within a 16 Km radius. To support keeping the App out of schools, the YikYak team have developed “GeoFences” to limit usage of the app in schools. There is an age limit of 17 and over to use the app, viewers also can report inappropriate posts to be removed.

This is by no means a definitive list – new chat services are popping up all the time, so the advice as always is to stay involved with what your child is up to and what services they’re using. Bear in mind that many kids also chat while gaming, using the in-game chat services. Chat is everywhere!

Social networking sites are the new playground for this generation.
For most young people, it’s hard to imagine a life without social networking sites. They’re expressing thoughts and feelings online and keeping in touch with friends and family nar and far. Or showcasing work and sharing ideas with a global audience that once seemed impossible to achieve. And it’s a huge part of their social lives.

Many parents tell us they only join social networking sites to keep up with what their kids are up to – until they discover it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family overseas and become prolific users themselves!

But there are some potential risks and challenges that parents should be aware of – such as cyber bullying, excessive use of technology, identity theft, online grooming, and managing reputation. And don’t forget, your children need to be at least 13 to have a social media account.

Of course, just when you’ve figured out Facebook, you’ll find new social networking sites are popping up all the time. How many of these sites are your kids using?

Yik Yak
Be aware that social networking doesn’t just happen on the obvious sites. Are your kids sharing comments, content and ideas on community sites like Scratch and TinkerCad, or playground sites like Animal Jam?

“”“I made an agreement with my son that we would both join Facebook together when he reached the site’s required age of 13. It was challenging for him not to be on Facebook especially when many of his friends were but as a mother I believed that we should observe the rules set by the social media experts. What was great was that we learnt to use Facebook together and he quickly became the expert in the house helping me upload photos or post articles, which he loves.” – Bianca
Dave from The Parenting Place has some great tips on conversations to have with your teen when they’re ready to have a social media account.

Whichever social sites you’re into, the same basic safety rules remain the same. There’s one overarching rule, and three clear guidelines.

The golden rule of social media – protect your identity.
Advise your child or children to avoid using their real name as their username in social media, at least until they’re old enough to manage their own identity safely.
Make sure you and they both know not to share locations when sharing pictures. Many smartphone Apps will try to do this automatically.
Teach them not to accept followers they don’t know. Social networking (for younger children, especially) should be about connecting with friends – not amassing followers.
Check and re-check that everyone knows how to find and use the privacy controls provided with each site or App.
3 great guidelines for enjoying Social Media:
Kindness: Teach kids to be kind online. Remind them to think about how the other person might feel. It’s also good to discuss what they should do if they come across others being cruel or doing anything that doesn’t feel right. Cyber bullying ends when bystanders become upstanders.
Sharing: Kids should also be aware that photos they send of themselves can be forwarded and saved. Remind them that if they are sharing photos of other people, they should think about how that might make the other person feel and should ask permission first. It’s also crucial to make clear to children what type of information should not be shared on social media, including their address, school, phone number or email address. Help them share and enjoy – download this poster designed to step them through a thought process to follow before sharing images online.
Content: For kids who are media savvy and have their own blog or even YouTube channel, remember that online seldom means private. They should automatically assume that anyone they write about will one day read their words or watch their videos – so no mean comments about teachers, parents, friends or schoolmates. Remind them that everything they put online is there forever.
How to control your content on social networking sites.
No matter which social networking sites you use, you’re always creating a ‘digital footprint’. Anything you write, post, or upload will be online forever. That’s a really long time!

On Facebook: Limit posts to be seen by ‘friends’ and not ‘public’. Allow messages from ‘friends only’. And make sure ‘approve tags’ is enabled (go to Facebook Settings – Timeline & Tagging). ) – this allows you or your child to see any message against which they’ve been “tagged”, and approve or decline it before that tag is seen by anyone else.
On Twitter: Click ‘Protect My Tweets’ so only approved users can see them.
On YouTube: Sign in to turn on safety mode and keep it locked on. Make your uploaded videos private by selecting ‘Edit Video’, then adjust the ‘Broadcast and Sharing Options’. If your teen has an account, you can make it ‘Unlisted’ so their account will not show up in search results. Only people who have the address for their account page can find his or her videos.
On Instagram: In the ‘Edit Your Profile’ section, scroll down and change the ‘Posts Are Private’ feature to ‘ON‘ to make it less likely that your photos will be reposted elsewhere.
On Snapchat: Snapchat has two privacy settings, one for who can send you Snaps and another for who can see your Stories.
For Who Can Send Me Snaps: You have two privacy options: “Everyone” and “My Friends.”
For Who Can View My Story: You have three privacy options: “Everyone,” “My Friends,” and “Custom.”
Social networks tend to change their rules around privacy quite frequently, so it’s important to check their websites for the most up-to-date instructions.