I’m very aware of the potential pitfalls for kids and social media. I write about this issue now and then as I think it’s an important one for parents to be aware of.
The majority of us who use social media tend to be a bit more aware of what our kids are really getting up to than parents who are computer illiterate, or just don’t care. Having parental controls on a computer for kids over 8 can be as helpful as birth control after a positive pregnancy test. What kids put online is scary, there is no other way to describe it. My kids have plenty friends who have parents giving them full access to everything, without helping them learn how to live that life.
I don’t use my day to day surname on the Internet as my online life began almost as soon as the Internet did. That means I am not linked to my name for any potential future work things in my home town, but most of us do use our real names in our online lives and don’t consider the potential.
We forget, and we tend to not remind our kids that potential abusers piece together information week by week, month by month or year by year. A snippet here and a snippet there, and they’ve built up a picture of where you go, what you do and where your kids will go to school.
Not everyone on the Internet is nice and pleasant and helpful.
I’ve allowed 2 of my kids to have Facebook accounts. They’re two of the multitude of kids who have it, and I’d guess that a huge proportion are well under the recommended age limit of 13. People can almost guarantee that if they don’t allow their kids some access to technology, they’ll find it elsewhere, and you’ll not have a clue what they are doing or saying on it.
I have full access to their accounts and I check their timelines. If I didn’t give them the leeway, they’d be like many of their friends whose parents ban Facebook and just have accounts that fly under the radar. I think that is a much more dangerous way to deal with online social media.
Most people would be quite surprised at what the average 10 year old knows about covering their online tracks to parents.
It’s easy for parents of tots, toddlers, and many tweens to say that their kids wouldn’t get to use it when they’re older. It is a naïve stance to take, especially when they get mobile phones, iPods, iPads, smart TV’s and anything else that connects them unfettered to the Internet.
Living and learning online is about learning how to use it appropriately, and what to watch out for.
In the first year at secondary (high) schools, the kids begin social awareness and are given films and talks around how to protect themselves online. It something that is very real and missing from our Primary 5 classes onwards, of whom, a large proportion will be playing computer games online or will have unrestricted access without any parental controls at all.
I wish I could really get across to some parents how important it is to be more educated on the online world than their kids are.
There is no excuse today for not knowing how to navigate the world-wide web. We need to stop making excuses, stop blaming our kids for giving too much away, and learn with them about how to keep all of us as safe as we can in the online minefield.
I read on Sky News today, that some primary schools in Shropshire and Cambridge have taken part in a trial launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office. I agree with them that primary school is the place to start with this and I know that many parents of small children won’t understand the reasons why.
Imagine what could happen if you don’t know that your child has a social media account. You might think that means they don’t have one, especially if you’ve said no.
My boys have several friends whose mothers don’t know their information is being posted online. A friend of my eldest (who is not allowed an account) has her picture plastered all over the timeline of her best friend, along with which school they go to and how old they are.
Kids go to friends for tea, for a sleep-over, or just for a play date – or they hide away in a corner of the playground with a friends smart phone. Banning it and pretending they’ll do everything you say is like insisting that it won’t rain in the next 12 months – just because you say so?
Peer relationships win over parental influence more than we realise. To deny that is to be inherently naïve.
Embrace technology, learn with your kids, and more importantly, take the time to explain how and what is appropriate online.
We won’t always get it right as none of us is perfect, but doing something is far better than sticking our heads in the sand and pretending nothing will ever happen to us.