Encourage positive aspects of social media for children, teens while guarding against risks
Surya Panpalia, B Com, Diploma in Hospital Management, Administrator Devki Hospital, Akola, www.devkee.in
“Many younger parents are very active digital citizens, and they are passing these skills on to their youngest children. An emerging concern is that children are becoming so immersed in the great variety of different screens that they may be missing the necessary opportunities for developing social, cognitive and language skills.”
That is why we need to understand about balancing screen time and real life.
While children may reap a number of benefits from these sites (e.g., broadening social connections and learning how to post a video), risks do exist. These include cyber bullying, “Facebook depression,” “sexting” and exposure to inappropriate content, said Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, M.D., FAAP, the author of CyberSafe, an AAP parenting book.
AVOID DIGITAL WORLD’S DANGERS
Cyber bullying is quite common and can lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide. Life-altering consequences may arise for bullies as well as victims. In Miami recently, two teenage girls were charged with felony aggravated stalking after they allegedly set up a Facebook account in a classmate’s name and altered nude photos using the classmate’s face. The kids in such a scenario may require treatment for mental health issues. “These are not normal kids”. Normally adjusted kids don’t do this.”
How does a parent know if a child is a victim of cyber bullying?
“For parents to pick up on it, they have to be really involved,” Dr. O’Keeffe said. Signs include avoiding or being anxious around the computer or cell phone. The best thing is to teach kids from an early age that they can confide in their parents without getting yelled at.
Adults may be surprised to learn how prevalent sexting is within the teen community. In one recent survey, 20% of the teenage respondents admitted to sending or posting nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, according to the clinical report. Swift, widespread distribution of such photos via cell phones and computers may result in emotional distress, school suspension and legal troubles. While some states have begun to treat such missteps as a misdemeanor, others have filed felony child pornography charges.
Parents need to make sure kids understand the ramifications of posting inappropriate material. Once something is on the Internet, it can’t be taken back. With each click of the mouse, an adolescent is creating a “digital footprint” that will follow him. A snarky remark on Facebook may turn off a future potential employer.
FACEBOOK -FRIENDLY PARENTS?
Parents should be advised to educate themselves about the technologies their children use. That may mean joining social networking sites — even “friending” one’s own child.
“Most of my adolescent patients’ parents are on their respective Facebook pages, and most teens accept this as a standard,” said Dr. Clarke-Pearson.
The popularity of social networking on the Web has led researchers to identify a new phenomenon known as Facebook depression. Classic depression symptoms may develop in teens that spend too much time on social networking sites. Fueling the condition is the desire to be accepted by peers as well as the intensity of the online experience. The clinical report notes that sufferers are at risk for social isolation and may be unduly influenced by Web sites promoting substance abuse or sex.
In the past, parents were advised to prevent problems by placing the computer in a public area of the house to better monitor adolescents. But Internet applications on cell phones and laptops have made that advice obsolete.
They said parents don’t need to hover to protect their teens. Instead, parents can create a family plan to guide online use. Such a plan would call for regular family meetings to discuss online topics. Parents would check privacy settings and online profiles. Inappropriate posts would be discussed with an emphasis on citizenship and healthy behavior, not punitive action. Rules, such as how much time is spent on the computer, would be followed by adults and children alike.
The plan also should respect the age restriction of Web sites. Thirteen is the minimum age for most social media sites. Allowing kids to falsify their age puts impressionable children at risk of viewing inappropriate content, including advertising. It also sends a mixed message about Internet safety and lying.
- CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media by Gwenn O’Keeffe, M.D., FAAP
- AAP Internet safety resources site, http://safetynet.aap.org
- Parent Plus: “Teach children to beware of bullies in the cyber-schoolyard,” March AAP News,http://aapnews.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/32/3/25-e