This is how you can keep a check on your kid’s online behaviour

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Nowadays, children are exposed to gadgets at a very early age. So, pretending that they won’t be exposed to social media until parents decide, isn’t realistic. It’s thus best for parents to introduce their children to social media, writes Anju Gupta, headmistress, Ahlcon International School, Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

Parenting in the times of technology is a challenge because, nowadays, tech plays an important role in children’s lives as it encompasses everything that children do – from sleep to study to eating to interacting with people through social media. It has now become difficult for parents to keep their kids away from gadgets although, let’s not forget that, it is parents who have provided these gadgets to their wards to save their own time. The question that now troubles parents is how to develop a healthy attitude among their kids towards shiny screens and social media?

The challenge before parents today is that raising children in the digital age is forcing them to deal with questions that can’t be answered by their parents as the latter never faced this dilemma. As with many other aspects of parenting, the answer to the very important question “when are they old enough to be on social media?” is going to be different for every child.

The child’s maturity level along with parent’s relationship with him/her should play a big role in making the decision. Starting this process off with a discussion about the pros and cons of engaging in social networks is a much better approach then just telling your child, “No, because I said so.”

The child’s maturity level along with parent’s relationship with him/her should play a big role in making the decision. Starting this process off with a discussion about the pros and cons of engaging in social networks is a much better approach then just telling your child, “No, because I said so.” Even though most popular social networking sites require minimum age of a child to be 13 to sign up for an account but it is not necessarily a parental guide. They are mainly doing it to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which is meant to prevent companies from gathering certain types of information about minors. Waiting until a child is 13-years-old to engage in any type of social platform isn’t necessarily the best approach in today’s times. Pretending that they won’t be exposed to social networks until you decide it’s time isn’t very realistic either. So, it’s best for you to be the one to introduce your children to social media. There are plenty of age-appropriate and COPPA-compliant platforms for children below 13 years of age, such as Kudos or Lego Life. With options like Gecko Life, you can also create your own private social network. Another way of introducing the younger generation to social media is by joining hands with other parents to create a controlled network comprising only friends and family.

The sooner you start setting up guidelines for your child, the better. While ensuring that they have a grasp of things like privacy issues, identity theft, mindful posting, cyberbullying, it’s important to have an open and ongoing dialogue with the milennials. Also, ensure you have access to all their online activities, follow them on the same networks and limit their connections to people in the virtual world. After all, Twitter, Facebook and other large social networks expose kids to important issues and people from all over the world.

Digital technology allows children to share their work/thoughts with a wider audience and even collaborate with far-flung partners. They realise they have a voice they didn’t have before. They are doing everything from crowdfunding to social justice projects to anonymously tweeting their thoughts. Social media provides essential feedback for kids to hone their talent and craft and helps them make friends, thus offering them a sense of belongingness. They feel less isolated and become more socially adept.

So, given the need of social media in today’s world, what should parents do? One effective way is to enter into a ‘social media agreement’ with your children — make sure, it is a real contract and both of you sign it

So, given the need of social media in today’s world, what should parents do? One effective way is to enter into a ‘social media agreement’ with your children — make sure, it is a real contract and both of you sign it. The terms of the agreement should involve children agreeing to protect their privacy and not giving out personal information; and promising to never use technology to hurt anyone else (through bullying or gossiping). In turn, parents can agree to respect their children’s privacy while making a conscious effort to be part of their virtual world, that is, parents can ‘friend’ them and observe them, but won’t post embarrassing comments or rants about their messy rooms or haircut or (according to you) their weird fashion sense.

Parents can also help keep kids grounded in the real world by putting limits on media use. Keep computers in public areas in the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set some rules on the use of technology (such as no cellphones at the dinner table). And don’t forget: your capability of convincing your wards and setting a good example through your own virtual behaviour can go a long way towards helping them use social media safely.

So parents, be careful as ‘Social media should improve their life and not become their life.’

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are that of the author and do not reflect the views of the website. The Peeper Times does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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