5 Measures to Keep Children Safe from Social Media

5 Measures to Keep Children Safe from Social Media

The sudden spurt in the growth of social media over the last decade has created new benefits and challenges for parents. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Benefits:

  • Numerous learning applications (apps) on social media which aid children in their studies.
  • Parents can be part of support groups which monitor and help their children.
  • Children can stay connected with family members living in various parts of the world.

Challenges:

  • Too much time spent on social media makes children moody and irritable.
  • It also leads to various health issues like obesity, eye sight problems, etc.
  • Cyber bullying is a major cause of depression and anxiety in children.
  • Dangerous games and dares target children. 
  • They’re exposed to unsuitable content.

As you can see, the seriousness of the challenges far outweigh the benefits offered by social media. This needs to be addressed and here we shall take a look at how children can be kept safe from the challenges of social media while enjoying its benefits.

5 Measures to Keep Children Safe from Social Media:

1.Explain the Dangers – Children understand more than they are given credit for, so it’s essential that parents sit them down and explain the dangers of social media. 15-20 years ago the one thing children were told was ‘Don’t talk to strangers’, now it has also expanded to telling them the following: 

  • Don’t add a total stranger as a friend on Facebook or other social media.
  • Don’t give out personal details like age, address, name of their school etc.
  • Don’t upload their photos 
  • Don’t agree to meet anyone outside the house without first informing their parent

It is necessary to make children understand that not everyone they meet is a good person and that they need to always be alert. 

2.Be a Support System – Cyber bullying does not spare anyone, least of all children.  They are the most vulnerable when it comes to cyber bullying tactics like harassment, body shaming, spreading rumours etc. The psychological trauma this causes in children, results in them withdrawing into themselves. They also suffer from anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or even flashes of anger.  

Parents need to keep an eye out for any such behavioural changes in their children. The key is to talk to them every day about the events of the day. It’s important that children know that they can always confide in their parents and are assured of their support. This gives them a sense of security and restores their self confidence.

3.Restrict Usage – Addiction to social media is a common problem among children, resulting in numerous physical and psychological issues (as mentioned above). Therefore it’s essential that ground rules are laid down at the very beginning regarding social media usage. It would be preferable if children are only allowed to use social media during the weekends (time limits should be set here too). Their phones and other devices can be put away during the rest of the week. Instead, encourage them to step out of the house and enjoy physical activities like sports, walks in the park etc for an hour or two every day.

4.Monitor Usage – In addition to setting time frames, care should also be taken to ensure children only view age appropriate websites and apps. This is however easier said than done, as children cannot be physically monitored 24/7.  For this, there are various monitoring software packages (Net Nanny, Norton Family Premier, Kaspersky Safe Kids etc) which will keep tabs on their internet usage and block inappropriate websites.

5.Join the Bandwagon – Signing up for the same social media apps used by their children, offers two fold benefits for parents.  First it gives them an idea on the type of content, rules and privacy protection measures available in each app. Second it enables parents to keep up with the times and enjoy more common topics for conversation with their children. 

While these measures will ensure the safety of children when using social media, parents should also encourage their children to step outside the house more often and interact with other children. Playing out in the open air with children their own age, will help them develop healthy relationships and enjoy their childhood.

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