By ALLISON HORE
Social media is just a fact of life for children growing up in a digital generation. Despite this, young people are rarely engaged with in positive conversations about social media.
But a new program launching in the Inner West hopes to change this.
The program was created by the International Social Media Association (ISMA) Youth Council, a group which represents social media users aged between 13 and 25. It aims to provide young people, their families and their teachers with the tools and frameworks to deal with social media issues “in the most positive way.”
The ISMA’s inaugural ‘Take Control’ event will be held in Lilyfield on the 4th of May, during Privacy Awareness Week. The conference will cover topics including online safety, digital addiction, cyberbullying and online predators.
Ness Song, Chair of the ISMA Youth Council said the program is developed to be a “safe, interactive and informative space to discuss the challenges of social media interactions” from a youth perspective, without the judgement that often comes in discussions of cyber safety.
“Too often young people are struggling with the dilemmas of unbridled social media interaction without any guidance or tools for safe and positive interactions, and it can have a profoundly negative emotional affect,” she explains.
According to a 2019 study by Karen Sutherland at the University of the Sunshine Coast, more than 60 percent of employers agreed the way prospective employees present themselves online would influence their decision on whether to offer them a job.
As well as teaching young people about safety online, the event will give students tools to best manage their online image and reputation. Although children are not going to be looking for a job any time soon, learning good online practice in their youth can help them to conduct themselves better as they grow up.
“There is, especially for young people, a lot of confusion about what you can and can’t, or shouldn’t, say on social media,” Ms. Song said.
“Many people don’t know how to manage online bullying or cyber safety, and how social media affects children and without appropriate tools this can present an overwhelming dilemma.”
Social dilemmas cause family tension
It can be difficult for parents to discuss social media with their children or supervise all of their activity online. A recent study by UNSW revealed 65 percent of parents admit negotiating social media use with their kids has led to conflict in the family. Further, a third of families are allowing children to use digital devices after bedtime every day, often unsupervised.
“Parents think that digital media and technologies have a dual power of offering children both benefits and drawbacks,” says Professor Pasi Sahlberg, Deputy Director of the Gonski Institute for Education.
“Hence, we need smart solutions to address these complex challenges towards sustainable digital wellness for our youth.”
But the ISMA Youth Council hopes their event will help parents and young people in the Inner West “take control” of their online life. Attendees will have the chance to hear from an expert youth panel which includes a Youth Council worker, a youth and social media psychologist and a TikTok Influencer.
Launched in 2014 in Australia, the International Social Association hopes to advance, protect and balance the rights of social media users. Children over the age of 10 years, parents, carers and teachers are invited to attend the free event at the Le Montage function center at 5pm on May 4th and tickets are available online.