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KIDS IN THE DIGITAL AGE- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Social media is raging today and as we all know, it can really be intimidating if you don’t know how to deal with it. As social media continues to evolve and grow on us, I feel as parents it’s quite vital that we get to know more about what we can do to protect our kids from this progressing era. Apart from the remarkable fact that social media provides a platform for enhancing your kid’s knowledge and encourages freedom of expression; it does have its downside. Do you worry your son spends all his time online watching videos or playing games? Does it concern you how it might affect him? If you nodded in solemn agreement, you might want to give this post a read.

In this digital age, no one is left isolated. From the pings, chat windows, messenger, to the pokes and emoticons, everything exists to bring people closer and to make the world more comfortable. Children these days are so tech- savvy it often makes you as the parent/adult feel rather amazed at how these tiny humans know so much more about technology than you could barely make of it. Young kids play with electronic devices like smart phones and tablets. But can you really blame them? Social media and technology has without a question become an active part of an adolescent’s life.  “Nearly 88% of teens aged 12-17 will own a phone and over 80% of those would access the internet that year.” However as a parent it’s helpful to know how social media can have an effect on your child’s development.

Negative effects of social media on children

Although social media has an astonishing amount of positive effects on our children, it does have negative effects that need to be taken into account for their safety. Research has proven that it can affect the mental health of our teens, their level of contentment can decrease and their likelihood of getting into trouble and being depressed can increase. We might have wondered why the new generation seems to always speak their mind and not consider the feelings of others or possibly act very insolent towards people in general? Well we have our well-known social media app Facebook to thank for that. It was found in a recent research that teens that use Facebook tend to be more narcissistic, antisocial, and aggressive. Studies have also shown that adolescents and even college students who are on Facebook very often have lower grades.

Need I not mention the risk of young children being lured by online predators? We all know the risk of giving unlimited access of using the internet; online chat rooms, portals or inappropriate websites can be highly dangerous to young girls and boys. Its best to monitor your child’s usage and access to various websites and keep her or him informed of such harmful sites on the internet.

Many adolescents are also influenced by the powerful advertising they see on social media sites, and it strongly influences their buying habits.  Many of them are not aware that they are individually targeted because the sites keep track of their habits and demographics.  These young people and their parents need to be aware of how they are targeted so smarter choices can be made around their spending habits. As with just about everything, social media should be used in moderation.

Here are some pointers to actively prevent problems from coming up by the use of the internet.

  1. Set clear boundaries

Rules are so important to have. Sure, it might take some time getting your child to abide by them, but having boundaries means that your child is aware that you are monitoring their Internet use. Ask yourself these questions:

Amount of time your kids can be on the Internet or use an electronic device

  • Weekends only?
  • A set amount of hours a week?

What time your kids can hop online

  • In the evening after they finish homework?
  • After they shower?

What kinds of things they can look up and do on the Internet

  • E-mail?
  • Chat with friends?
  • Do research for homework?

2.      Be Proactive

Not only do you want to be proactive in monitoring your kids’ activity online, you’ll also want to take several measures to ensure their safety. For example; blocking inappropriate websites, knowing who your child is interacting with online.

  1. Educate them early about privacy.

Give them advice on how they should not share their passwords with anyone or give out their personal information to anyone especially if they are offered something. Do not agree to meet with anyone unless with a guardian.

Yes the internet can be dangerous and can find ways to exploit our young children but opening your mind to the Internet as a positive resource can help determine the path of your child’s life. If used with quality and caution, the internet can be a great tool for learning and development. As the parent make sure your child spends quality time on social media websites and reaps positive outcomes. Keep a tab on the sites she accesses. Educate her about the pros and cons of social media and most importantly be a good role model. Children often look at their parents and make judgments of what’s acceptable or not. Be the change you want to see in your kid!

By Zahedi Samsudeen

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