Teach Your Children to Be Safe On Internet Social Media
By: Moumita Basu
A lot of my friends have children who also have their social media profiles websites such as Facebook, or MySpace. Most of these websites often have a lower age limit, such as for Facebook the child has to be of a minimum age of twelve years. And yet I find so many children having a profile even if they are underage.
When my niece had opened a social media profile, even when she was an under aged minor, it made me aware of a problem which have begun to affect most Internet-savvy households today. She, like many of her friends, has just changed her date of birth, to be eligible to open an account. Was it a minor aberration? Actually no, for, apparently a whole lot of her friends have done that to access the site. The situation, I felt, presents a hugely dangerous condition, that of children being vulnerable to assaults from adult predators. If a child can change her date of birth to skip the minor age criteria of a social media website, what stops a 25-year old man from lowering his date of birth and befriend her? How comfortable will then her parents be? Not only here the question of teaching our children the right value comes, here also comes the question of how safe our children are in the Internet?
Dangerous Social Media
The dangers are too many for letting children access social media sites without supervision.
Moral Values: By allowing our children to break a rule by lying, we are offering wrong moral signals and bad role model to our children, who may take our acquiesce as a signal for them to do what they feel like while on these social media pages.
Vulnerability to Hackers: Every social media page is vulnerable to hackers and malwares, and every individual, including children, must be exceptionally careful before sharing personal information over such websites. Most often I find adults being careless about their privacy or security concerns regarding sharing their personal experiences, and I wonder how much such parents will be able to teach their children about these serious issues. Every time the social media websites upgrade their features, they lower their users’ security settings in order to allow their sponsors to have as much user-information as possible. Even for the savviest of the users of such media, it’s a constant one-upmanship between the company and the users to stay safe through increased safety controls.
Susceptibility to Advances from Strangers: ‘Friends of friends’ is an extremely deadly weapon for strangers to befriend young children through these networks. The social media websites are full of fake profiles, and often strangers and predators use fake profiles to befriend people for their own selfish reasons. Befriending unknown people, even if they are your friends’ friends, is never a good idea. A house in UK was ransacked when a teenager threw a party for her friends in her parents’ absence in a social media website, and left the initiation open to ‘Friends of friends’; while another teen girl left her home to run away with a teenage boy, only the ‘Teenager’ of her friend-list turned out to be a forty-two year old married man.
How to Stay Safe
Parental interventions can help in keeping their children stay safe while using social media websites.
Teach Them the Rules: Every game comes with a set of rules, meant to keep the enthusiasm of the players intact, while cutting off the wrongdoers short, and social media is also no exception. Parents need to educate themselves regularly about the new features and upgrades of the social media their children frequent. Keeping your own profile there helps in many ways. As you learn and relearn the new security measures you can take, you can teach your children the same and keep them abreast with the newest of the safety measures.
Monitor their activity: allow yourself to be part of your children’s friend list and keep an eye on what they are doing, whom they are befriending, and what is being discussed in their circles. A certain amount of discretion and maturity is needed as tweens and teens may not like too much parental control.
Ask Them To Refuse Friendship From Strangers: Sticking to people you know personally in the real world is always a better idea than to befriend strangers, and that thought holds equally true for both the real and virtual world. Children must learn to firmly refuse ‘Friend Request’ from people they do not know or haven’t met earlier, as a principle for using such websites.
Social media is a fascinating concept and very addictive too. But in its very design runs the weakness of the system that everyone should be aware of, including children. We, as parents, are their guides, and it’s we, who must provide them with the true knowledge of such a media, so that they do not fall prey to its vulnerabilities.
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