The internet has become a virtual venue to meet new people, to reconnect with long-lost loved ones, and to nurture current relationships. It bridges gaps and unites humans; it defies distances and patches differences. It is, indeed, one of the most powerful tools ever invented.
Technology makes communication easier – from text messages to phone calls. It helps accomplish tasks faster – from school work to business deals. Through technology and the internet, users get to enjoy several online platforms where they can freely express themselves and broaden their network.
Social networking sites, for instance, seem to have become playgrounds for kids of this generation. These free apps offer a great place for children to hang out without going outdoors. However, when these platforms are abused, they can pose many risks to children.
The Results of Unguided Social Media Usage By Kids
A child’s social media exposure has a fair share of both positive and negative impacts. Adults may be mature enough to have a full grasp of what they’re diving into, but this is not the case with younger users. Children, no matter how tech-savvy they are, are still naive.
There’s no denying that social media accounts are flooded with fake news and unverified “facts”. For some reason, unknown sources and so-called internet trolls are spreading invalid, irrelevant, and misleading information. If not properly guided, children tend to believe everything they see, especially if the information is posted on their favorite pages or shared by their friends.
Puberty is the start of character development. This is the stage where one’s preferences come and go as a child creates and identifies their personality. Social media sites are full of photoshopped pictures and biased stories. If not properly explained, these are more likely to trigger insecurities and make children question themselves.
Kids are naturally copy-cats; they have watchful eyes and sharp memories. Next thing you know, they’re saying words or doing things they usually see, regardless if it’s a good or a bad thing. They could blindly follow trending activities, like social media challenges, just because everyone’s doing it. So as parents, you have to be there to help them.
Whether they get bullied or are the bullies on social media, leaving this unaddressed isn’t going to end well. The thing is, a child’s behavior becomes a bit aggressive when they’re online. Kids tend to forget that there are real people behind every post they bash, every character they trash-talk, and every photo they criticize.
Scrolling through social media sites can make time go by fast. Be sure to always check your child’s screen time before they become addicted to social media. Too much time spent on these sites would surely affect other aspects of their lives such as socialization and communication skills.
What Parents Can Do
The urge for parents to monitor their children is natural. In fact, with the several risks of online exposure, it’s highly recommended for parents to be hands-on as their kids utilize these platforms. Below are some steps you can take to monitor your child’s use of their social media accounts.
Establish Open Communication
The most basic, yet effective, parenting trick is establishing open and positive communication with your children. Reassure them that they can always talk with you about anything. Encourage them to let you know of anything odd, suspicious, or weird they see on their social media accounts.
Educate Your Child About Social Media
While there are certain built-in safety features, these networking sites aren’t always 100% child-safe. Moreover, you won’t be able to monitor or protect them 24/7. Hence, you have to patiently educate them to be responsible internet users. Teach them proper online etiquette. Create a clear picture of the dos and don’ts when using their social media accounts. Make them understand the importance of data privacy and online security. While they’re still young, inculcate into their minds which things are socially, morally, and legally right.
Above all, raise them to be respectful, considerate, and kind individuals – traits that they can’t only use on social media, but in the real world as well. You will never be able to change the world they live in, but you can always nurture them to be the change that their world needs.
Friend & Follow Their Accounts
Most social sites only allow users aged 13 years and above. Nevertheless, kids seem to easily find ways to outsmart such limitations. As a parent, you most probably won’t stop them from creating their accounts, so might as well just allow them. However, this is under the condition that they allow you to friend or follow their accounts. An even better option would be for your child to give you their social media account login information. By having this access, you get to monitor your child’s online activity, and you can immediately address any inappropriate behavior.
There may be a lot of workarounds for your kids to leave you on the blindside such as creating another account without your knowledge. However, by being able to see their main accounts, at least you can have a grasp of what pages and posts they like, and who their friends and followers are.
Utilize Parental Controls
To fully utilize parental controls, it’s best to link their social media accounts to yours if possible. The Google Family Link tool, for instance, allows you to set time limits, block inappropriate content, monitor which pages they access, and a lot more. Additionally, it’s recommended that you enable the built-in kids-friendly features on their devices, and within apps and sites they use. Lock certain access that you think are inappropriate for them, and check the settings once in a while to ensure the filters you place remain the same.
If possible, enforce a rule that they only access social media accounts on a computer that’s placed in the common area of your home, especially if your child is below 13-years-old. You may as well set a limit your Wi-Fi connection or install a third-party app that controls their screen time.
Install Monitoring Software
If there’s no way for you to implement the “computer-only social media account access” rule, feel free to utilize a reliable and trustworthy cell phone monitoring software. Several of these apps are available on the market at reasonably affordable prices. Depending on the package you purchase, you can not only monitor their activities on their social media apps, but you can also extract other data like browsing history, text messages, call logs, gallery, downloads, and more.
These monitoring apps feed the phone’s data in real-time to an online account or app. With the help of these, it will never be too late for you to protect your child, or to save them from the dangers lurking on social media platforms. Aside from remote installation, these programs often include stealth access, making it easier and faster for you to monitor your kid’s phone use.
Worrying seems to be a part of parenthood. After all, it’s the parent’s responsibility to look after their children and to ensure they grow up into a responsible adult. No matter how hard you try, however, no monitoring apps or precautionary measures can guarantee the safety of your kids. There several factors that are simply out of your control.
Hence, it’s best to mold them to be strong and wise enough to eventually protect themselves. Responsibility can start from merely practicing proper internet and social media etiquette.
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