For better or for worse, the Internet and social media is all around us. With more and more children using social media at home, at school and even on the move, it is more important than ever for parents to ensure that their children keep themselves safe in the virtual world. In spite of the practically unending number of risks posed by social media and other online resources, particularly with regards to children who don’t have the real-life experience to handle potentially harmful situations, many parents do not take these concerns seriously enough.
Know What Your Children Do Online
Social media has become one of the most prolific mediums of our time, and countless children around the world use it every day to keep in touch with friends. However, as a parent, it is also your duty to ensure that they are not misusing social media. Be sure to show an interest in what they are doing online, and make a note of the social media service and other websites that they use on a regular basis. While there are many parents who simply can’t stand the whole concept of sites like Facebook, it is an inescapable fact that it is almost ubiquitous among younger people. After all, some fifty percent of parents know less about social media than their youngsters do. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the services they use, and get to know your way around the various safety and privacy features that are available.
In addition to blocking or restricting access to certain online services or websites, you may also want to consider having monitoring software in place, since this can help you to keep an eye on your children even when you are not physically there. There are commercially available keyloggers and other monitoring software available for precisely this purpose. Particularly when it comes to looking after younger children online, parents should also set strict rules regarding when, where and how they can access social media and other online services. Disturbingly, over a third of children have almost unrestricted and unmonitored access to the Internet.
Educate Your Children
Younger people (and adults as well) are constantly getting themselves into awkward situations, or much worse, through irresponsible use of social media. In this day and age, it is rarely practical or reasonable to expect children, particularly older ones, to completely stay away from social media sites. However, if they are going to be using such services anyway, be sure to educate them about the potential dangers involved. Younger and less experienced people often seem to feel the need to share everything they do on Facebook and other social networking sites. This includes photos and even personal information. Everyone, including children, should realise that anything they post on social media can end up being viewable to the entire public, regardless of one’s privacy settings.
The Dangers of Social Media
If you are still not convinced about the potential dangers of social media for children, then consider the following factors, many of which have been the subject of high profile cases in the news.
Children, being inherently less responsible and experienced, are statistically far more likely to post personal information and photos without realizing the potential severity of any problems which might arise because of this. Unsuitable content is, unsurprisingly, the number one concern when it comes to protecting children online. Since there are very few rules and restrictions guarding sites such as Facebook, people can ultimately post whatever they want, and some of this may contain material which is completely unsuitable for youngsters.
Online predators often use social media to forge inappropriate relationships with those who are underage. For this reason, parents should always keep an eye on who their children are socializing with over social media. Online bullying is a major problem of which there have been a number of high profile cases in recent years. Cyberbullies cowardly hide anonymously behind their computer screens trolling forums and social networking sites for the sole reason of upsetting others. Many children are not emotionally experienced enough to deal with the more severe of these situations, and some cases have led to devastating results.