• April 07, 2016 | Cara Eggett (HOD: Pastoral Care)

Just as there are wonderful opportunities on Social Media for our children, there are also many dangers.  In today’s crazy world we, as parents, need to try and stay ahead of the game when it comes to Social Media.  A frightening comment from a parent is ‘My child is so smart on his/her phone that I don’t have a clue what is going on.’  As a parent, MAKE CERTAIN that you know what is going on.  You don’t want to pry too much that you alienate your child or damage trust which is been built up, but you need to be aware of what your children are doing online.  Try and stay involved in a way that your child feels that you still respect their privacy, but that they understand that your involvement is for their own safety.

Here are some dangers of Social Media that are most certainly worth a conversation with your child.

Stranger Danger – Many people on Social Media, are not who they say they are, it’s difficult to tell friends from foes, online.  The rule of thumb is simple, ‘If you don’t know them, don’t accept them as friends.’  Only accept real-life friends.  As parents we need to be aware of what apps our children are using.  Often the apps which our children use, are also used by people who are targeting children.

Use privacy settings – Switch off geographical location and don’t add personal information.  Passwords are there to protect and should never be shared with anyone accept parents.  A good idea is to go through the settings with your child to be certain that they understand each one.  The same should be done with age restricted Social Media applications and always adhere to the terms of service for these applications.

Think before pressing enter/Over Sharing Info – Just how much should you reveal?  Locations/phone numbers/parties/addresses/holidays.  Revealing these may aid the intentions of a stranger.

Posting Pictures – Ensure your child knows to ONLY send pictures to real friends.  Perhaps even more important is the kind of picture they send.  An innocent photo could have a serious consequence, something even as simple as a street name in the background.

Once it is out there, you can’t get it back (Consider the future) – The staying power of Social Media is frightening.  Once you post or send something, it is out there FOREVER.   Any Social Media postings can be accessed by universities and potential employers.  Children need to protect their reputation, their digital footprint.  As nothing is ever permanently deleted and this footprint paints a picture of who you are.  It is like your CV for the future.

Cyberbullying – 42% of children online are bullied annually and of these, 20% contemplate suicide.  Just as unkind and disrespectful behaviour is unacceptable in the real world, the same applies in the virtual world.  Before posting, your child should ask themselves the following questions:

1 – Will this hurt someone’s feelings?

2 – How would I feel if I received this message/picture?

3 – Is this threatening in any way?

If bullying is happening at school, a child can still escape it when they are at home, where as there is no escape from cyberbullying.  Cyberbullying is often anonymous and it spreads like wildfire.

Remember also to keep the lines of communication open.  If your child is not sure if they should send something, they should bring it to you first.  Add your child as a ‘Friend’ of yours on the apps that they are on.  Have a Social Media contract’ with your child, where they agree to certain things, such as never giving out personal information.

Don’t allow cell phones, computers, etc in bedrooms.

Limit the time on devices.

The following apps help protect your child and monitor and restrict certain applications from some of these dangers: 

‘OurPact’ is the leading parental control app for iPhones, iPads and iPods that makes it easy for parents to set limits on how much time your children are spending on their mobile devices. (www.ourpact.com).
‘Mobicip’ – creates a safe environment for your family on all types of devices and computers.  It enables age appropriate settings and time limits.  Monitors internet use and app installs.  Stay in touch via web, email and app notification. (www.mobicip.com).
‘Net Nanny’ – 82% of children are exposed to inappropriate material before the age of eleven.  Net Nanny provides features such as Social Media monitoring and setting screen time limits, to name but a few. (www.netnanny.com).
‘Net Aware’ – helps parents stay up to date and keep their children safe in in today’s digital world. (www.netaware.co.uk).
‘Safe search Kids’ – filters the entire web. (www.safesearchkids.com).