Communication has been an integral part of networking, be it making new friends, finding your dream job, a prospective suitor and more. What is not surprising in this age and day is young children taking to social media as if it were the most natural thing to do. Having working parents has made it only worse. With none to keep an eye on them, children turn to social media to engage themselves. While this is not totally an unacceptable thing, there is a lot more to social media other than casual interactions.
What starts off as a casual chat could lead children into the deep dark murky world of exploitation and crime. While there is a lot one can learn on the social media sites, the potential danger is much more than that. So the question then arises, whether children should be permitted to have social media accounts at all?
The following factors should be kept in mind:
Decide Whether They are Ready: Technically speaking, it is illegal for children below 13 years to open accounts on social media sites. However, as the scrutiny is found lacking, children are able to open accounts on various social media sites using false birth dates. Most parents are aware of this and indulge them due to faith in them and or their unavailability. This can pose a serious threat to both the parties due to the various threats lurking in those sites. Even if the child is obedient and wise for his years, he could still fall prey to the dangers. It is tough for kids that young to decipher hypothetical situations. The ability to steer clear of the various hypes created under the name of crime may not be forthcoming due to their cognitive skills. People learn from experiences, especially kids. If they spot their parents glued to such sites, out of curiosity, anger or boredom they may experiment with those sites. Things may get better only if parents cleverly plan their internet surfing hours, using social media when the kids are away at school. However smart your kids may be, they are still exposed to the potential dangers of social media sites and may not have the necessary skills to get out of situations at the right time.
Rules Are a Must: When you have no option but to give the nod, make sure you keep a watchful eye on them. It is best to join those sites yourself so that you are aware of the safety rules and the potential threats before giving the green signal to your child. You must also make it a point to keep his account details with you, like username and password. Following him with your account is an added advantage as you can keep yourself abreast of his interactions. Going into his friend list and followers details is vital as well. You should brief him about the security details of the sites; control what he posts and also scrutinize viewership details.
Address his Problems and Concerns : Make sure your child shares a comfortable rapport with you, so that he knows he can turn to you if he encounters any problems. He should be able to talk to you openly about any weird things that could have happened to him, like bullying, stalking or spamming on the sites. When you address these issues, it is important to keep your cool and tackle the problems in an even tone, so that the discussion is not cut short. The child should be briefed about whom to share his personal information with and when to ignore such requests. Chatting can get addictive and dangerous if not under surveillance. Allow your child only certain hours to chat and if possible be there in the same room where this is happening. One golden information to be passed on to your child is that technology can be a bane too, as whatever one shares on these sites can be tracked by search engines, making it a permanent feature in the future as well. It could affect his future education and job prospects.
The “Likes” Mania and how to Handle it : It is very easy to get over awed with the number of likes your pictures and posts garner on social media sites. Your child can get preoccupied with this and lose interest in studies and other outdoor activities, keeping him glued to these sites. The child should be made to understand that a virtual world is very different from the real one. One should not resort to comparing his life with that of his friends as most of what is put up may be misleading. These so called unknown friends become so much a part of your everyday life that you tend to neglect family and friends. “Selfie” mania has taken the social media sites by a storm, so much so that, one can spot youngsters clicking away selfies even at random places all the time. The anxiety about the number of likes it would garner can be quite stressful. Porn is being linked to children’s sites as well these days. Upon clicking a cartoon figure one is directed to porn sites which can prove to be quite dangerous and disturbing for the child.
Social media sites come with expensive tags on them. So, it becomes important to teach children that freedom comes with responsibility.