Staying at home, all of us have definitely realised that we are spending a lot more time on social media and in front of screens and it has actually started to feel like a new normal for us. However, when it comes to surfing the internet and socialising on social media platforms, it is extremely important for parents to know what their children are up to and what are the mediums that they frequently use.
Having said that, it has now become critical to give a thought to family engagement for digital age. In a Zoom session that was hosted by CSF in partnership with TikTok, we caught up with Sashwati Banerjee, founder of Top Parent and Arjun Narayan, the Trust and Safety Director of TikTok.
The session brought forth the success of the Top Parent campaign along with safety features
from TikTok, which along with the CSF, has prioritised safety and education because these efforts are a critical step in helping families safely navigate the online world.
Addressing safety concerns
Social media platforms play a big role in the lives of children, youth and parents and since
people spend a lot of time on these platforms, it has absolutely become a necessity to focus on user safety. Of course, most people use social media platforms as a tool of entertainment but there are a few lurking characters that can be harmful. So to keep users safe, social media platforms like TikTok have a lot of safety and trust policies in place. “Be it with features or tools or controls, our focus is on the safety of the users and there are a lot of policies keeping in mind the local audience, law enforcement and guidelines. However, with all of this, we strongly urge the parents too, to find a way to integrate themselves and talk openly about social media with their children,” says Narayan.
TikTok along with CSF encourages every parent to learn about their age-based features, code of conduct outlined in the Community Guidelines, and access the tools and controls that are available on social media platforms. Narayan points out that when it comes to community guidelines, they are revamped every now and then because it needs to be in sync with the current situation. TikTok continues building tools and controls and across the
internet, we see more companies provide thoughtful resources for families.
Understanding the platform
Both Narayan and Banerjee agree that it is vital for parents to understand the social media platforms that their children are using.
“Parents have definitely penetrated on social media platforms as they want to be in touch with other parents and so on for whatever reason. So, they are pretty much aware of how the platforms work, what needs to be in focus in the user safety policies and features of the platforms,” says Banerjee.
She points out that once parents actively learn these features, they know for sure how to use them. Narayan adds that social media platforms often run a number of campaigns to ensure the safety of a user on online and offline modes. “These campaigns can play a key role even for parents who want to understand and more importantly, help them start a conversation with their children and educate them about the society and the things which they need to stay away from,” he adds.
He also mentions that though teens are in a phase where they demand their own space, talking about online safety concerns should be a priority for all parents so that they know that their children are safe while using the wider spectrum of the internet.
Integrating family engagement
Banerjee rightly points out that for the smaller age group — 3-8 years of age, parents often use a mobile phone as a babysitter or as a distraction and mode of engagement. “It seems to come in handy with kids, but we need to understand the fact that it is important to integrate the phone as a tool for learning too,” she says.
Talking about the Top Parent app, she claims that it is a one stop solution for parents to raise happy, healthy and smart children. The app provides parents with language, strategies and all necessary information to help their children improve learning outcomes and stay healthy, happy and safe. “This app aims to encourage family engagement that has proven to positively impact children’s overall healthy development,” she says.
The content on the app addresses all the domains of the child’s development and provides a platform to build a community of parents that are well informed and equipped with right language, strategies and knowledge related to their child’s developmental needs.
She points out that in the times of Covid-19 pandemic, children are home and this is probably the right time to start family engagement practices with them. Even UNESCO has highlighted the importance of family engagement keeping in mind the development of a child especially since they’re home now, she concludes.