There’s no denying the fact that social media has taken the world by storm. We played our part by taking to it like fish to water. And we can expect our kids to follow suit.
Truth is, our children learn from us and imitate us. They also adapt to new technology and devices faster than us. So while we marvel at their uncanny ability, we also worry about their vulnerability.
A recent study conducted by the Media Development Association (MDA) found that an increasing number of children, from newborns to six-year-olds, are already going online and even used social media. Another study by the National Institute of Education (NIE) found that 65% of the children in Singapore begin playing with electronic devices before the age of 3.
With kids having access to smart mobile devices equipped with cameras, social apps and the works, they’re barely a few clicks away from the tantalising but sometimes, unforgiving world of social media.
Here’s how to handle this double-edged sword:
Limit access to the Internet
When we allow our kids to use social media, we should do so with supervision. This helps us prevent our children from inadvertently sharing private pictures or videos. Supervised social media use also allows us to teach them how to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate content.
Don’t use devices as digital nannies
Due to our busy lives with demanding careers & limited time, we often buy our peace by handing over the kids to the care of smart devices. But we must remember that these devices are a gateway to social media where as mentioned above, our kids could use a little supervision.
Wait till they’re at least 13
The exact effects of social media on our children are barely understood, as it’s a recent phenomenon. But a kids’ media advocacy group in the US suggests that 13 years is the age at which a child develops cognitive abilities and is able to make ethical decisions. That’s why Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat restrict access to those below age 13.
Keep social apps locked
The Internet is littered with stories of accidental uploads and unintended leaks on social media by unwitting children. We can use AppLock, AppVault, Toddler Lock and the like, to safeguard our office mailbox, chat, and social media apps. This small measure could save us from potential online embarrassment.
Educate them on the dangers
It’s important to make our kids feel that we trust them, especially when they’re in their teens. But they need to know that trust goes both ways. Before we allow them to open their first social media account, we should first make sure that they appreciate our concern for their safety. Advise them of the dangers of meeting strangers online. Discuss the issue of privacy and the risks of unregulated sharing on social media.
Safeguard against cyberbullying
Bullying can be very damaging to a child’s self-esteem and it pays to note that harassment takes all forms – even online. We should always look out for any drastic change in our kids’ behaviour, especially when we know they’re active on social media. It’s a tell-tale sign. While we keep a watchful eye, we can also protect them by being their beacon of emotional support. When we help keep their confidence and self-worth afloat today, we’re also helping them overcome the intense negativity of any bullying that may come their way.