Today is Safer Internet Day : 9th February 2021
‘Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master.’
~~~ Christian Louis Lange ~~~
I wouldn’t for a minute dispute the many benefits of the internet, not least because we are currently living in a pandemic and our devices are serving as our “window to the world”.
We are navigating homeschooling, working remotely, connecting with friends and family and very generally speaking, many of us would be lost without our devices at the minute.
There are still technical threats out there – and if we do not educate ourselves as parents – how can we effectively protect and support our children?
I am sure you have heard all about the dangers : child grooming, cyber bullying, fraud, sexual harassment, inappropriate content … the list goes on and on.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Christian Louis Lange, a historian and political scientist, said as far back as 1938 that ‘Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master.’
What follows are some pointers for keeping social media under control, and avoiding being controlled by them, organised under the helpful mnemonic of :
Monitoring internet safety for younger children is the easy bit. Two very simple guidelines should do the trick:
- have a family computer downstairs for everyone to use, so you can keep an eye on what the kids are up to; and
- install filters to ensure that your child is unable to access unsuitable sites.
The problem becomes far more unwieldy once your child has independent access to the web through their own devices. As parents, we have very little influence on the levels of device usage, and we simply won’t be present for some of the time that they are online, so monitoring and punishment are not effective options. I think our responsibility, once our children get to a certain age, is to educate them instead, so that they are aware of the consequences of the choices they make online.
Social media is a way of socialising without socialising. Those interacting via technology run the risk of feeling that they are joining in, when they are unwittingly isolating themselves still further.
Yet they’re not even isolating themselves in the safety of the four walls of their room. They’re isolating themselves, potentially, in the middle of a bunch of complete strangers – in real time, as live streaming is so accessible and so prevalent. The illusion of safety can make it tempting to behave in ways that are inappropriate, and whatever you have done will be.
Our children are looking at filtered and often carefully manipulated images of other people’s lives, and comparing the glorious technicolour world they seem to inhabit with their own humdrum, black-and-white surroundings. They’re also tricked into feeling that they’re in a real community, and a child lacking in confidence may be particularly susceptible to comments such as ‘You look so hot in that picture’, apparently coming from a really cute boy, when in fact it’s from some skanky 45-year-old sitting in his Y-fronts in Arizona (though I’m sure there are some perfectly nice, non-skanky, 45-year-olds in their underpants in Arizona!). Even when they understand how superficial it is, children may continue to find the virtual world strangely compelling. As one 15-year-old said : ‘It’s a bit like an awkward family dinner that you just can’t leave.’
Teens tend to be impetuous and impulsive, and post things in the moment without giving too much thought to the longer term. Many are unaware that these pictures and posts may remain on the internet forever, even though they themselves may have deleted them from their timelines or their feeds. Someone else may have shared and copied it, and that old photo of them behaving disgracefully at a party at the age of 16 may not be suitable background information for a 26-year-old in search of a new employer.
This is advice that we need to heed as parents as well: your child may be rightly apprehensive about launching himself onto the job market with that picture of him on his potty still at large in cyberspace.
Children spend on average three hours on social media every day. If you used that time to develop a skill, you would become an expert in a year or two. This is perhaps not a very persuasive argument to use with teens, so it’s probably more productive to get them to think about how social media time has to fit into the number of hours available in a day. They need a certain amount of time for school, sleep, eating meals, doing homework, etc., so spending such a large proportion of their waking hours on-line may mean that they are constantly chasing their tails – something for them to think about.
You need to ask yourself whether you’re setting a positive example. If your children are having to compete with your screen for your attention, it will undermine all your arguments about the real world being more important than the virtual one, and demonstrate that their claims on your time and interest come a poor second.
You may be aware that your child is struggling. Are they being bullied online?
Just because we are restricted to staying ‘safe in our homes’ throughout this pandemic, it does not mean that your child is safe from bullies. In fact statistically, your child is more likely to be bullied online than in real life – and that’s even pre-COVID.
So if you are wanting more support and advice regarding CYBER-BULLING then please click this link and download my free handout.
This comes, as always with Much Love 💕
Bringing Families Together – By Parenting Less 💞
Supporting Parents Build a Mentally Healthier and
Happier generation of Young People