In the old days, access to the internet was restricted to a family desktop or classroom and monitored by parents or class teachers. Today, everyone has internet access through phones, and tablets, and wifi seems to be everywhere.
Children learn to use phones as young as three years and access Youtube and its Cocomelon and baby channels. However, children’s desires change from games and songs to joining social media platforms as they grow. Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and WhatsApp are the most popular among teenagers and children.
Why your child should not join social media
Exposes children to inappropriate content: When we speak about inappropriate content, we mean information, images and videos that are unlawful and lead to unwanted behaviour in children. Social media is the king of content in today’s world. Your child may accidentally watch videos and images that change his behaviour, mindset, culture and norms. Children get exposed to discriminatory content, phonographic content, and gambling sites.
Social media affects education and life: Social media is quite addictive because of the exclusive entertainment videos, music, images and gossip shared by many users. Children find it difficult to balance social media time with school work, research and sleep. They are most likely to continue chatting with friends when it is time for sleeping, reading and classes.
Exposes children to cyberbullying; People comment negative comments and messages on Facebook and Instagram posts. Cyberbullying happens to adults, and it happens to children too. Teenagers bully others in school and can carry their influence on social media. Besides selfish comments on posts, they also create demeaning videos and images mocking their fellows. Cyberbullying can lead to mental health issues, low self-esteem, poor performance, and committing suicide.
If your children have not joined social media, don’t allow them until they turn 18. It is also your responsibility as a parent to protect, guide and monitor your child’s social media account.
Here are some ways you can protect your child on social media.
- Use an email you can access to open your child’s social media account. You will be able to know who is texting your child and what kind of message they are receiving.
- Regulate the number of social media your child can use. Most parents accept Facebook and WhatsApp only. Make sure you follow each other to see his posts, compliment, and like them.
- Guide your child on who should be your social media friends. Children should only add people they have met in real life to avoid scams, sexual harassment and child trafficking. I spoke to some teenage girls in Uganda using social media, and they reported that some Indian facebook friends offer money and ask them to take and send nude pictures.
There is no invasion of privacy when a parent checks their child’s social media account, phone or internet searches. You are protecting your children from inappropriate content and other malicious activities. When your child does not have a smartphone or home computer, do not allow them to use public computers in an internet cafe to access the internet and social media.