One of the biggest questions any parent asks is whether or not to allow their child to have a socialmedia account. For some of our children it is a must have, so how reasonable is our concern over our children on social media sites? Is there a real danger for teenagers on social media? To look at this we must first address the concerns.
Whether we are talking about images of an adult nature or criminal activity, inappropriate content is out there on the internet. Social media can contain this sort of material, but there is some control on social media with reporting buttons, and moderators which regularly review content.
That said, inappropriate content is not gone from the sites and some of the controls rely on users informing the network of it.
In 2013, Hannah Smith became the fourth teenager to commit suicide following bullying on social media site ask.fm. Comments made to the teenagers suggesting they self harmed are thought to be the main cause of the tragedies.
To the parents of these teenagers, this was a hidden world, one in which they had no access to. If they had, they may have been able to take action.
Too much time
One of the complaints which is often cited is our children are spending too much time on their social media profiles. Should this be discouraged? Two decades ago the complaints were that children were spending too much time texting and previous to that our children were spending too much time on the phone.
There will always be something out there which they can dedicate their time to; therefore perhaps we should not worry about this too much as long as the time spent is in moderation.
Privacy is a just concern. Sometimes our children don’t worry about the consequences of posting what seems like innocuous information over the world wide net, such as parties and birthdays. Yet information can be used against the child and you.There have been some cases where parties have been ‘gate-crashed’, causing people to be injured and damage to property. Another problem would be identity theft.
What Can You Do?
Despite our objections it is likely our children would find a way to be on social media even if we didn’t allow it. Especially since mobile devices can connect to the internet without a home internet connection. After all, how many of us have snuck out or told a white lie to get to a party our parents didn’t want us to go to?
So instead of discouraging social media, parents need to encourage safe social media practices for their children.
1. Ensure they set their privacy settings so that only their contacts (friends, followers, etc) can see what they are posting.
2. Allow them to only befriend those they have met personally (i.e. school friends, family).
3. Insist they friend you. This way you can keep an eye on what they are doing.
4. Know their passwords – don’t actively look on their account. But it is useful to have if you notice any change in behaviour that concerns you.
5. Insist they don’t share personal information (like birthdays, ages, addresses, party dates) on their network.
6. Encourage moderation.
7. Converse with them about their social media activities. Don’t grill them but ask them what has been going on recently.
By working with your children instead of against them, you can ensure there are fewer arguments between you over social media and that they stay safer online.
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