Parenting in the Digital Age: Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Allowing Children on Social Media at Different Ages

Parenting in the Digital Age: Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Allowing Children on Social Media at Different Ages

In our perpetually connected world, the magnetic allure of social media has become an inescapable reality for children and adults alike. While these virtual platforms offer opportunities for self-expression and connection, they also harbour insidious risks that can greatly impact a child’s psychological well-being. As parents, we find ourselves at the forefront of this digital battleground, tasked with the formidable challenge of guiding our children through the tremulous landscape of social media without allowing them to become ensnared by its perils.

The Futility of Outright Bans

The notion of an outright ban on social media presence is an exercise in futility, often breeding rebellion and subterfuge. A more prudent approach lies in educating ourselves on age-appropriate usage and fostering a responsible, balanced presence on these platforms. By understanding the risks and benefits at various developmental stages, we can equip ourselves with the tools to navigate this intricate terrain.

The double-edged sword

The double-edged sword of social media cuts deep, offering a tantalising array of advantages and pitfalls in equal measure. On one hand, these platforms provide avenues for self-expression and virtual connection, satisfying the innate human desire for belonging. However, the threats lurking in the shadows cannot be ignored—cyberbullying, excessive pressure to conform to trends, and the insidious spread of misinformation are but a few of the threats that can unravel a child’s fragile psychological fabric.

Under the surface, more sinister dangers await, including distorted body image, threats to one’s sense of identity, potential physical harm, distractions from life goals, and the paradoxical spectre of isolation, contrary to the promised connections. These risks have the potential to inflict deep psychological damage, leaving indelible scars that may prove challenging to heal.

In the quest to mitigate these ill effects, the age-old question arises: “What is age-appropriate exposure, and how can it help?” Alas, there is no universal answer, as it hinges on each child’s unique maturity level and cognitive abilities. However, a general guideline suggests that children should not be granted access to social media until the age of 13, and even then, parental monitoring and involvement are paramount. 13 years old is also the eligible age for anyone to create an account on popular platforms like Instagram, Facebook and many. Also, many surveys and medical professionals suggest that children should enter the social media landscape after the age of 13.

What can parents do?

Setting Boundaries Collaboratively

For parents navigating this digital maze, a few guiding principles can serve as roadmaps in the virtual wilderness. First and foremost, setting clear boundaries and parameters for usage, encompassing time limits, banned sites, and permissible content, is essential. However, imposing these rules through proclamations alone is a fruitless endeavour; instead, engaging in open dialogue with your child, fostering understanding, and co-creating these limits together can cultivate a sense of ownership and compliance.

Parents who find it challenging to raise children in the digital age or those who want to ensure their children are independent in their use of technology can adopt an intelligent approach to parenting. This approach involves integrating technology into their parenting style. By using parental control devices or apps, parents can monitor their children’s digital activities and be prepared to address any potentially harmful content they may encounter in the unpredictable world of social media.

Mindful Monitoring

Mindful monitoring is the next crucial step, as it ensures adherence to the agreed-upon rules. Regular communication with your child about their social media presence, coupled with the judicious use of monitoring tools, can empower you to stay apprised of any challenges they may face and provide effective guidance. These tools also aid in ensuring your child does not overindulge, enabling them to maintain focus on their academic and personal goals.

Leading by example

Perhaps the most powerful tool in a parent’s arsenal is leading by example. Enforcing rules while simultaneously binging on social media sends mixed messages and undermines your credibility. Modelling the desired behaviour, acknowledging your missteps, and engaging in open discussions about the consequences can foster a sense of accountability and encourage your child to view mistakes as opportunities for growth and self-improvement.


The path to responsible social media use is winding and fraught with challenges. However, the reassuring truth is that help is available for every concern that may arise. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation; instead, strive to prevent harm and amplify the positive aspects of these platforms. By fostering understanding, open communication, and a balanced approach, we can guide our children through the digital tangle, ensuring they emerge unscathed and equipped with the skills to navigate the virtual world with wisdom and resilience.'

Sonali Gupta

Behavioural Psychologist at Baatu Tech

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