Despite every parent’s desire, it is virtually impossible to keep children away from the internet. Today, it has become a necessity for everyone, especially children. The internet and its resources and various apps allow children to remain connected, enjoy a bit of “me time” and also to complete their school projects. When used properly, it is a reliable source of information for kids who intend to learn and explore new avenues.
The day-to-day advancements of social media provide users with platforms to groom themselves socially, economically, and personally. But along with the advantages, it can also be harmful to a great extent, especially for children.
And since excess of everything is bad, as the primary gatekeeper and manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that your kids are safe while surfing the internet and not letting anyone hurt them.
How is the Use of Social Media Harmful to Children’s Health?
Most social media apps have restrictions and a required age limit for their users. Social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook contain material that is suitable only for adults. In some cases, distressing or vulgar content may not be suitable for anyone at all! Exposure to this by kids and teens impacts their minds negatively.
According to the Pew Research Center, 88% of teenagers have witnessed someone being rude or abusive to someone else on a social media platform. Social media platforms have been linked to 300% more occurrences of sexual assault. 12% of teenagers claim to have “regularly” observed bad behavior on social networking platforms.
Other than that, the extensive use of social media can lead to many other issues in kids that affect their mental as well as physical health. Here are some of the negative effects that excessive social media use can have on your children:
- Increased chances of becoming obese
- Increased probability of developing anxiety and depression
- Face a hard time getting to bed
Moreover, using unlimited time scrolling and posting can develop social media addictions in your children.
The Dangers of Social Media for Kids
Using social media from a young age not only affects your child’s health but can be dangerous enough to put their lives on the line. Millions of people use social media on a daily basis, including children, teens, and adults.
Random video-calling websites like Omegle connect strangers from all over the globe too. Therefore, it is hard to expect that the person your kid is talking to only has good intentions. Kids are vulnerable to the world’s dangers.
Predators can lure your kid through harmless chatting and eventually start gathering personal details, including the home address, family details, bank account details, etc.
Other dangers that your kid can be exposed to are:
- Hacking and cyberattacks: It might happen when your kid receives a malicious link from someone and opens it. It transfers a virus into your kid’s device and accesses everything available on it.
According to a cybersecurity survey, 50% of children aged 8 to 12 suffer cyberbullying, and close to one-third face other cyber threats like phishing or hacking. 6 out of 10 children in this age group are exposed to cyber risks online.
- Inappropriate Content: As most kids lie about their age while creating accounts on social media, they get exposed to stuff that is not meant for them. However, it also deviates their attention and ultimately they get involved in bad habits, such as smoking, drugs, etc.
What are the Methods Employed by Parents to Ensure their Kids’ Safety?
The intervention of parents to keep their kids safe from the side effects caused by social media plays a vital role in this regard. As mentioned earlier, parents are the ones who control the acts of their kids, whether it is in real or digital life. Some of the methods used by parents are:
- Talk to their kids about cybersecurityand appropriate and inappropriate online behaviors.
- Keep an eye on their child’s behavior at home and studies, whether it’s affecting them or not.
- Parents befriend their children online to see who their other friends are and what type of posts they are uploading and sharing.
- Limit their kid’s phone usage time and keep it in custody so they don’t reach it and use it.
- Try to get into their kid’s phone to check what secrets they are keeping on their phone.
Indeed, parents do this all out of care for their children. However, kids sometimes get the wrong message and think that their parents do not trust them and invade their privacy. And sure enough, invading someone’s phone definitely sounds unethical. This can affect your relationship with your kids, and a kid without supervision is an easy target for attackers.
Following that, you should know a few authentic ways to ensure their safety without invading their privacy, or at least without letting them know.
Tips to Handle Digital Addictions in Kids
Here are a few tips that you can use to handle digital addiction in your kids.
Make sure you develop a good bond with your kid so that they won’t hesitate to come to you asking for help when needed.
Teach them about the good and bad impacts of extensive use of the internet and social media. Ensure that they are aware of the technicalities and how someone can use their words against them.
Properly answer the questions your teens have and offer advice. Keep yourself updated with the latest and upcoming information and risks so that you always stay one step ahead of the problem and are prepared to deal with it.
If needed, take concrete steps to monitor or check up on your teens’ online activities, including the relatively low-tech techniques of checking which websites a teen has visited, viewing his or her social media profiles, or finding them on a social media network.
This monitoring might also include the use of an app to monitor mobile and social media activities. Make sure you are picking the right monitoring toolso you won’t miss anything important that can put your kid in danger. Choose an app that works remotely and has a stealth mode so that it remains hidden during times of monitoring.
The ideal approach for parents may be to agree to limit their kids’ smartphone usage, but this is not always feasible. Even if you allow them to use your phone, make sure you are closing all tabs before handing over the phone to them. Always keep track of their online activities so that you know what they are up to.
Having said that, these are only a few tips that you can follow to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Your strategies and implementations may differ depending on your family’s specific use case. Let us know what method you use to keep your kids away from online dangers or to prevent them from getting addicted to social media in the comments below.