Pretty much everyone is online in one way or another and technology is undoubtedly a fundamental part of our children’s lives. But are we really thinking about what we are doing online or has it become a thoughtless habit, a habit that is unwittingly affecting our children?
It’s obvious that the internet is full of fantastic opportunities for young children to learn and grow. Many social media platforms offer brilliant and exciting services. They remove the physical barriers to social connections, allow young people to explore new ideas, and have the power to motivate people and action social change. Live streaming apps used in the right way allow young users to practice their communication and presentation skills, and boost their confidence. And we all know how using Google or Siri becomes second nature to find information (not to mention makes homework simply a click away rather than a walk to the nearest library).
But whilst the benefits are clear, with such high numbers of young children online (and a number that is only set to rise),it is imperative that as parents we become digital superheroes.
- 78% of 10-12 year olds in the UK have social media accounts
- 49% of under 13s have a Facebook account
- 41% are on Instagram
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So let’s open our eyes. Do you know the sites or apps that your children use – if you know nothing of Snapchat or 4chan then you wont be as ready or capable to help.
Are you one of the thousands of parents who are generally throwing open the doors of family life known as ‘sharenting’? If you are one of the 71% of parents who upload five or more images of their child each week on social media, then think – are you keeping them safe? Are they traceable because you’ve left location tagging turned on the images? Are they in school uniform, letting the world know where your children are 5 days a week. We tell our children to think before they share – the same advice applies to parents.
And did you know that the general Data Protection Regulation comes into force in 2018 – stipulating that anyone under 16 will need parental consent before signing up to online services, including social media. With a recent nationwide survey revealing that 55% of young people have received hurtful comments online, with 18% experiencing cyberbullying, I see this as an opportunity to focus on responsibility and hopefully open up the lines of communication and knowledge between parent and child.
So how do we balance the exciting opportunities with safeguarding? Ask our children and they say “don’t stop us from going online and don’t block everything that might interest us”. But as a parent it’s time to take action, think and get educated – know where your child goes online, what they are doing and with who. And set an example. It’s time to get your cape and be a digital superhero.
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