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Should parents monitor their children’s social media activity?

(Source: Pixabay/ author: Thomas Ulrich)

Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that some parents are worried about their children’s presence on social media. According to the “Children and Parents Media Use and Attitude Report” (2018) children in the UK from ages 11 to 17 spend up to 9 hours a day on social media. These numbers are quite scary and raise the question on whether parents should monitor their children’s online activity.

At what age should parents start monitoring their children’s online behavior? Is it ethical to do so? Should they tell their children or ask for their consent? All these questions raise even more questions. That’s because nobody likes it when their parents invade their privacy but it’s hard to draw the line between intruding and looking after them. While both points are valid, we need to state the difference between monitoring and spying.

The concept of spying is a little bit exaggerated as no parent in their right mind would secretly spy on their children. Observing their every move in secret is more than caring for them, it’s just invading their privacy. Monitoring, on the other hand, has to do with parental involvement. For instance, asking your child not to lock their bedroom door all the time or to count the number of hours they spend on the internet.

The dangers of the Internet

It is our primary role as parents to prepare our children for the crazy world out there and the Internet is no exception. Though it may look harmless, there are as many threats in the web as in the real World. When kids surf the net they are vulnerable to people who may want to hurt them. These are some of the threats posed by the Internet:

1. Grooming

Sometimes you feel your child is much safer at home than on the street or at some public space where they can be approached by strangers. When in reality strangers are just as dangerous anywhere. Some people disguise themselves as children and use social media to “groom” youngsters. This means they pretend to be their friends or even to get involved romantically so as to convince the child to meet them in person. The child may not be able to tell the difference between a pedophile and another child.

As a parent, you need to check every now and then who your children are talking to. Remember that young kids usually lie about their age to get on social media as they need to be over 18 years old to create an account. These strangers may even extract information from your child about their routines, parents, home address or any other personal details. Just be on the alert and always explain these issues to your child.

2. Inappropriate content

It’s common knowledge that information is available for everyone on the internet. People can lie about their identity and age and access all kind of information. Well, the same goes for your child. Out of curiosity or because they see ads on social media, your children may explore inappropriate websites. From pornography to websites that clone their information or gain access to your computer, the Internet is not a safe place. Therefore, it is important that parents teach their children how to protect themselves online and not to click on any mysterious ad that pops up.

Moreover, people are mean on social media. As there is absolute freedom of speech, many people bully others, engage in inappropriate conversations and share personal conversations, pictures or videos. Explain to your child what cyber bullying is about and the consequences his words may have on other people.

Safety measures

According to Parentscorner, there are ways to make your children’s internet experience much safer. To begin with, social networking sites have some safety measures to protect the users’ information and pictures. Make sure your children’s accounts are private and monitor their friends’ list. You can also install some plug in to block any ads on the browser. Most importantly, always talk to your children and educate them on the matter.

As a parent it is important that you learn how to use the apps your child uses work and that you keep open communication with them. There’s no point in telling them not to do something when they know you can do nothing about it. For instance you can establish a random weekly check of apps, photos, games or text messages with your children next to you.

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Duncan Idaho

Duncan is a science and technology reporter for CDN and serves as the lead geek correspondent. Follow him if you like rockets, mobile tech, video games or ... just about anything nerdy.

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