Impact of Social Media on Children's Health
Social media can be a great thing for kids - it connects them with friends, family, and the world. And it’s an important learning tool that gives them access to information that was once hard to come by.
But there are plenty of downsides too -such as cyberbullying and online predators.
That's why it's so important for parents to take charge of their kid's social media use and teach them how to stay safe on-line without sacrificing all the benefits they receive from social media sites like Facebook or Instagram.
What are the benefits of social media for kids ?
Social media is a great way for your child to interact with friends, family, and organisations that interest them + they'll have access to information from around the world that would take hours of research time just 10 years ago.
As long as you're checking their social media accounts regularly, there's little chance they could be exposed to something inappropriate.
For parents who work long hours or travel frequently, sites like Facebook can help them stay connected with their children once they're out of school and on their own.
Finally, if your child is interested in a particular topic - maybe dance or music - social networking sites may open up a whole new world for them by connecting them with other children who share similar interests.
How parents can protect their children from the dangers of social media
One of the best ways to protect your child is to be aware of what they're doing online - that way you can intervene before there's a problem, like when your kid sends an inappropriate picture or message. And it's not just sexual predators that are dangerous either...
Bullying online is far more common than most people realise, so keeping tabs on their social media use can help prevent this serious issue from dominating their lives.
Of course, the same rules apply in social media as in real life - don't share anything with strangers and always meet new people in public places until you get to know them well enough to establish trust at home.
What are some tips for keeping children safe on social media?
The most important thing a parent can do is to establish rules for their child's social media use and make those rules very clear. And don't worry - it doesn't need to be complicated.
Here are some basic dos and don'ts:
- Don't share any personal information like name, age, address or school information. Most adults will never ask for this kind of info anyway but fake accounts set up by children shouldn't be asking either... If your child needs to fill out an online profile they should always use a made-up user name that doesn't contain their actual name.
- Never meet up with someone you met on social media in person without first talking to them at least five times somewhere other than the website they're on. That way you can be sure it's a real person and not an anonymous predator trolling for children to kidnap for human trafficking (yes, this actually happens).
- Don't post or share anything online that they wouldn't want their family or teachers to see. If it would upset them to have your bosses or grandparents read something they wrote, don't say it at all - even if you think no one but your friends will ever see it.
- Always use privacy settings to limit who can see what they post on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. This is especially important for new users because some networks - like Snapchat - automatically make everything public as soon as the account is created, unless otherwise specified by the user.
How can parents monitor their children's social media use?
The best way to monitor your children's social media use is with technology.
There are several apps available that will let you monitor their activity, their data usage, and even their GPS location in real time.
You can download them onto your computer or cell phone so they'll be able to help you no matter where you are when something happens.
These programs may block access to certain sites during school hours so if your kid needs access for homework it could become a problem.
Another option is to set up the main computer or internet connection in your home in a way that children can't get on social media without permission from an adult in the family.
This kind of parental control software might also keep track of all web searches they make while online - including things they might be searching in an effort to hide their online activity.
What are some ways kids can avoid cyber-bullying?
All social media sites have rules against cyberbullying and most are pretty good about suspending the accounts of anyone who breaks them.
However, even if nothing happens to the bully, being bullied can have a long-lasting negative psychological impact on victims, especially if they think it's their fault or that no one will believe them - one of the many reasons parents should talk openly with their children about the dangers lurking online.
Who monitors these websites? And how does this affect what is allowed to be put on there?
Every website has moderators (usually volunteers) who work for the company but can't access any information not available to everyone else on the site.
They read complaints and if they feel a user has broken a rule they'll send an email asking them to stop posting whatever it is that made them cross the line.
If the poster doesn't comply the account might be suspended (temporarily deactivated) until they promise to behave.
Occasionally when something really bad shows up moderators will turn it over to law enforcement who may investigate further by subpoenaing data from Facebook or Twitter.
This usually happens when sexual predators make overt threats of violence, but parents should still report anything suspicious even if their kids think it's just harmless teasing because in some cases law enforcement can track down bullies long after they've deleted their accounts.
What should parents do if they find out their child is being cyberbullied?
Parents should step in and stop cyberbullying immediately. But they should also talk to their child and let them know it's not their fault.
Victims of this type of abuse often blame themselves so it's important for parents to reassure their children that the people doing it are simply bad - not weak or stupid.
Some kids might worry that telling an adult will just make things worse, especially if the bully threatens to post more embarrassing information online or says no one will believe them.
Others might figure that adults won't find out anything because most social media sites have strict anti-bullying policies these days.
Are there any other risks associated with social media that parents should be aware of?
Primarily the risks are psychological, but parents should also be aware of physical dangers associated with social media.
It's important to teach kids how to stay safe online so they won't have anything bad happen to them (like meeting up with strangers or sending photos that become public without their consent).
What measures can parents take to prevent this?
Parents should monitor their children's social media use whenever possible.
This is especially important because kids spend more time on social media than any other school subject these days.
There are several apps available (usually for free) that allow you to monitor your child's activity in real time.
You can download them onto your computer or cell phone so they'll be able to help no matter where you are when something happens.
Some apps let you monitor everything your child does (like the videos and photos they post and who they talk to) while others only give you access to their profile information like their friends list, status updates and location check-ins.
If you're not sure which one is right for you, there are plenty of reviews online that rate different apps so you can find the best one for your needs.
Social media is a new form of communication that has the potential to change how we interact with our friends, family and society as a whole.
It can also have some health benefits for children such as increased socialisation skills and reduced anxiety levels.
However, it is important to be aware of the negative effects too, including cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content or advertising tactics tailored towards children.
As a parent you need to monitor what your child does online in order to prevent these risks from impacting their mental development- both now and into adulthood.
Remember: Digital citizenship starts at home!