The Age of Media & Technology
The age of media is still alive and only growing. As many of us can attest, technological advances have made our lives easier by keeping us in contact with our family, peers, and by providing us access to any information at the push of a button. However, can we say that it is easier for families with children? The social networking media is all the rage and is constantly changing. New and up-and-coming apps are released all the time, and sometimes even go so far to dictate the lives of our children. Whether it be Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook, our children are always in sync with their social media community, and these never-ending rapid changes make it harder for parents to sensor and supervise children’s online lives.
Consumption of Social Media by Children
Children can be consumed by their online life paying little attention to the world around them. For instance, children spend an average of six-and-a-half hours a day on electronics and teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day on social media (Wallace, 2015). Moreover, 56 percent of children ages 8 and older have a form of social media; of those 56 percent, 67 percent claim that they know how to hide their online endeavors from their parents. These statistics show the honest truth that most parents are not aware of the online life their children have. It is crucial that parents talk to their children and provide the necessary information to help their children understand the importance of social media safety.
Monitoring Your Child’s Social Media Usage
As a parent, you may want to completely prohibit your child from using social media to protect them from the potential dangers. However, this is the primary method of communicating and expressing oneself to the new generation and it is not an easy feat to keep them off these apps. Instead, it is simpler to regulate their use and make sure they are posting and writing carefully on social media. Chances are that if they have access to a cellphone, computer, or tablet, they will begin to sneak around, which is the real danger.
There is a lot of things that one can do as a parent to help their child make better decisions when it comes to social media, but the most important thing is education. Teaching a child to think before they post is important. Pictures and information that get posted online is forever and can have terrible long-term consequences. As a parent, talking to your child about your concerns regarding their safety and what information is appropriate to post online is crucial. It may also be helpful for you to make your own social media account so that can have firsthand experience in what a specific networking media consists of.
- Emerge. Do not hesitate to create an account and fully connect to social media so that you can be aware of the content your child may be exposed to.
- Understand your child’s needs and desires. Your child may engage in frequent social media to communicate with friends. Consider having a movie night or out-of-town weekend once a month with your child, and his/her friends to reduce desire for constant messaging.
- Restrict and condition usage. Even if you are aware and satisfied with the content your child seeks on the internet, restrict his or her access to it. Set up limits of one hour a day of electronics and social media. Do not permit usage of electronics during dinner time — it should be family time. Condition the access to media and electronics to your child’s academic performance and general behavior: “for cellphone (access to Facebook, tablet, etc.) you must get good grades,” thus using a healthy behavioral reinforcement strategy as a parent.
- Privacy and Personal information. Explain your child about the consequences of posting personal information such as address, date of birth, school he/she attends, and other sensitive content. Once again, once you post on the internet it will be virtually impossible to erase it. Just because you delete something from your account doesn’t mean someone didn’t save it or posted it.
- Be open with your child. If your child does not feel comfortable talking to you then expect him or her to find other sources of help or advice. Most likely, the internet will be one of those, but not all of the information they find will be either accurate or adequate for them. If you want to avoid your child learning inaccurate or inadequate-for-his-age information, become his or hers most trusted source. This lead us to the next point — trust.
- Build trust. Encourage your child to tell you the occurrences he/she finds on social media. From the trivial video of puppies falling down a ladder to the friend request of a social media with a semi-nude profile picture, ask your child to share with you his/her encounters to be fully aware of his activity and internet surroundings.
- Education is the key. Learn what’s happening in the website or social media your child engages on and the trending topics and celebrities he or she follows. Learn how to implement child-safe filter in YouTube, underage guidelines on Facebook, and the adult-content exclusion feature on your child’s social media.
References available upon request
(Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Paola Quijano,
Melissa Briones, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres, & Armando Villarreal-Sosa)