Children of today are surrounded by a world of technology with Facebook, GooglePlus, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, and Pinterest. Babies as young as 6 months are provided access to touchscreen tablets and smart phones that connect to the internet. Toddlers even have access to the internet from home and know how to play games and use a smart phone. Most children and teenagers are linked to the online social community as a part of their daily life.
Vicky Rideout, Director of the Study of Media and Health, reports “there is nothing that occupies young people’s time more than media”. The study revealed that children between the ages of 8 to 18 years old spend an average of 53 hours a week on a media device. The advertisements and influence of social communication has an overwhelming impact on the development on young people’s lives.
This makes me concerned about the role of parents and how to parent through technology. How do you manage the world of media that saturates every area of your child’s life? How can parents promote healthy development when social media is rewiring the brain during the critical stages in human development?
Access to more screens means that there is access to more dangers and trouble. A few of the dangers to online media includes:
- Online predators
- Potential problem with childhood obesity
- Exposure to commercialization through corporate marketing
- Access to pornography
- Exposure to media violence
- Cyber bullying
- Spreading of rumors
- Hurtful text and comments
- Exposure to sexually messages and inappropriate images
The Study of Media and Health reports that kids who spend less time on media devices, with parents who set limits, do better in school. Unfortunately many parents do not realize their child’s social networking fixation. Many young adults and children have social networking accounts kept in secrecy from their parents.
The stage of adolescence should be a time of self-discovery; unfortunately many youth experience constant social pressure from the influence of social media. Instead of self-discovery, kids define their identity through the social media from developing values, cultural knowledge, and social status based on how many “likes” or “followers” they have on their Facebook or Instagram accounts.
You are responsible for your child’s online behavior as a parent. The following are some tips to empower your child with the necessary tools to prepare them for adulthood including communication and social skills.
Tips for Parents and Guardians
- Be aware of your own usage of social media on smart phones, computers, and tablets.
- Maintain tech-free bedrooms for your kids- keep all media devices in the living room.
- Keep bedtime boring- collect media devices, such as ipods, tablets, smart phones, or Nintendo DS at bedtime so kids can sleep.
- A child should be 13 or older for a Facebook and Instagram account (I advise waiting until high school or older for social networking sites). Follow the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act- this means parents are to restrict all social networking accounts until age 13 and permitted by you, the parent or guardian.
- Use strong passwords and explain the importance of keeping it private.
- Discuss the importance of privacy- what not to share and post.
- Use all the privacy restrictions available and know the parental-control tools.
- Talk about the dangers of pornography with your child- consider filtering software
- Write a contract- how to behave on social media and when.
- Spot-check your child’s account and MONITOR usage very closely.
- Use the media as a teaching tool- positive messages or educational sites. I highly recommend Khan Academy- https://www.khanacademy.org/.
- Turn it off- Schedule daily nondigital family time.
- Educate yourself-
- Focus on the Family’s Plugged In online site- www.pluggedin.com.
- A Parents’ Guide to Facebookhttp://www.connectsafely.org/facebook-for-parents/
- Social Media Tips for Parents for Dummies- http://youtu.be/h-eJ-QPSqLs
- Media Influence on Children
Hunter, Brenda PhD and Blair, Kristen (2012). From Santa to Sexting: Helping Your Child Safely Navigate Middle School and Shape the Choices that Last a Lifetime. Leafwood Publishing.
Rideout, Vicky J., Webcast release of Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-to 18-year_Olds, January20, 2012,
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