5 lessons for parents about the impact of social media
The far-reaching impact of social media extends to your child too - here’s what they need to learn from you right now.
In 2013, famous ex-presidential parents Barrack and Michelle Obama admitted in an interview -to the surprise of parents around the world- that they didn’t let then 12-year-old Sasha Obama, their youngest daughter, to go near social media, while their eldest (15-year old Malia Obama) was only given “limited access” to Facebook. While young parents do not necessarily have to follow the Obamas’ example, there’s truth to the wisdom that just throwing your kids off the digital deep end is not a good way either. For one, there’s no telling what the impact of social media will be on their young minds. Without your guidance, it leaves them at the mercy of trolls, scammers, or worse.
So as your little ones begin to learn about the digital world, don’t miss the golden opportunity to frame this digital conversation right with them. Although they’ll find going online to be an exciting, even liberating experience, teaching them these five important lessons below will go a long way to keep the potential negatives of social media at bay for them.
Lesson #1: Basic social media etiquette
Teaching social media etiquette can start from something as simple as explaining the Golden Rule - treating others the same way as one would like to be treated. This is useful for children to learn from the get-go because of their tendency to unfairly and untactfully judge the behaviour of others at their age. Devorah Heitner, author of “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World,” explains in a piece about the impact of social media on children in the New York Times: “they need us to set aside our judgments about their world, and help them cultivate empathy for one another.” Some other rules of thumb that might be helpful for your little one are:
Never to post a social media status when angry - parents should be their child’s sounding board, not social media
To be careful with sharing personal details on social media - especially photos and videos of oneself
Not to spam one’s friend network with game invites on social media (for the sanity of the rest of the adults)
Lesson #2: Being disciplined with time
How can you bring up your child in a nation noted for being the most emotionally-dependent on the internet? Internet addiction can easily afflict children who, using the internet for the first time, do not have the proper guidance to help them understand the full effects of social media. Apart from not letting them have their mobiles at certain times (e.g. before they go to bed), using a parental control service like JuniorProtect can help you enforce time-based curfews and remotely control their mobile data access, shielding them from being too distracted by the digital world.
That said, the real work is in how you teach your child to be focused on larger priorities like school and family. Helping them to understand this bigger picture is more important from the moment they receive their first internet-connected device.
Lesson #3: Responding to cyberbullying
Remember the big kid in the school bus, winning all the country erasers and being a very sore loser when he didn’t? Well, he’s moved online and threatening to spread nasty lies on his social media if your child KOs him in League of Legends.
It’s not a difficult scenario to imagine - in fact, recent studies by The Singapore Children's Society (SCS) and Institute of Mental Health have discovered stronger links between cyberbullying and self-harm of the victims. Unfortunately, the former is one of the potential side-effects of social media, with bullies emboldened by the freedom of being online and away from parents’ prying eyes.
The same report also found that children were less likely to be naturally open with their parents about their online behaviour, so establishing trust and open communication is critical to prevent occurences of cyberbullying. But if your little one is a recipient of such an incident, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Cut off contact with the bully as soon as possible
Resist the urge to ‘feed’ the troll or bully by responding tit-for-tat as your child may be tempted to do
Save evidence of that incident for possible further action - especially when there are potential legal consequences involved
Lesson #4: How to avoid being scammed online
A more notorious impact of social media has been the rise of online scams. The Singapore Police noted in 2013 that victims from seven to 19-years old formed the largest group of victims in sex-related cyber crimes; Channel News Asia’s investigative research into Wechat scams revealed that scammers considered Singaporeans as being more susceptible to such scams than other targets of other nationalities.
Encourage your child not to share any confidential information or talk to strangers online without your approval; an internet parental control service like JuniorProtect can also help you block unsafe websites. It’s equally important to explain why you are running a site blacklist (e.g. the site uses unsecured protocols, has malware in its downloads, or is a known scam site) so that your little one can learn about the warning signs as well.
Lesson #5: Learn from them as much as they learn from you
The truth is that the younger generation view social media very differently from how their parents used it. We grew up in the era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but kids today are using platforms with a focus on instant video content, like Snapchat, Kik and Instagram. As Heitner notes, “While parents sometimes impose rules for using social media on their kids, the most important rules are those that children create for themselves. “So take time to learn how your child uses the internet - you’ll understand the impact of social media on them better too.
If you find this all a bit dizzying to digest, don’t worry - protecting children online wasn’t something parents were just meant to do alone. From blocking websites to creating curfews and tracking your child’s location trail, JuniorProtect can help guide your child’s first digital footsteps. Don’t delay on their safety - sign up now!