Published on January 30th, 2023
These days, preventing children and teenagers from accessing the internet and using social media platforms is challenging. In 2021, The Office of Communications, commonly known as Ofcom in the UK, reported that six in ten children aged between 3 and 17 have profiles on at least one social media app or website. In the findings, Ofcom reported that video-sharing platforms like TikTok and YouTube are the platforms of choice for children.
In another study, virtual private network provider and cybersecurity company ExpressVPN’s report revealed that parents of children between the ages of 4 and 13 shared that bullying and grooming are their main fears regarding having their children on social media.
Below, we look at five of the biggest dangers that social media could harbor for children:
Perhaps the most significant and prevalent danger of social media is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when children are bullied or harassed online through comments, direct messages, or multimedia means. In their survey, ExpressVPN found that the number one concern parents and children have on social media revolves around cyberbullying or harassment.
While it’s difficult to control what other people do on social media, parents can do a lot to protect their children and prevent them from being too affected by what other people might say about them online.
For starters, parents can help ensure that their children only follow people they know personally and can trust. They can also make it a point to check their children’s accounts and monitor their interactions with other people online.
It’ll also be helpful if parents begin openly discussing the dangers of social media with their children from an early age to foster a sense of trust between them.
2. Online Predators
Social media platforms can provide a breeding ground for online predators who seek to take advantage of kids. Many online predators will pretend to be children themselves or portray themselves as trustworthy adults online to build relationships with children. Afterward, these predators might manipulate the relationship to obtain what they want from the children.
While their intentions are not always the same, some online predators want to exploit children for sexual gratification or to control and manipulate them for other abusive purposes.
This may include engaging in sexually explicit conversations or activities, seeking to establish a relationship based on trust and then exploiting it, or attempting to groom the child for future sexual abuse.
Monitoring your children’s online activities and interactions could help prevent this.
3. Inappropriate Content
Kids can easily access inappropriate content such as violent clips, pornographic videos and images, hate speech, and other harmful material on social media.
Many social media apps and websites have parental controls that filter and block inappropriate websites on your home internet and devices.
Parents can also encourage their children to use safe search engines designed for kids, such as Kiddle or KidzSearch; this prevents them from accidentally stumbling upon inappropriate content.
Kids can become addicted to social media and the instant gratification it provides. This can lead to decreased attention spans, disrupted sleep patterns, and decreased physical activity.
One of the best ways to prevent children from getting addicted to social media is to establish clear guidelines for how much time kids can spend on social media and stick to them. It is also helpful to teach kids to balance their time between social media, schoolwork, and other important activities.
Additionally, explain to your kids the negative impacts of excessive social media use, such as decreased sleep, anxiety, and depression. Parents should also set an excellent example for their kids by reducing the amount of time they spend on social media as well.
5. Privacy Risks
Social media can also pose privacy risks for kids, who may share personal information with strangers or their peers. This information can be used for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or online fraud.
In addition, if children aren’t well-equipped to face cybersecurity threats, they might fall victim to online threats like hacking and having their passwords stolen.
To avoid this, parents should start discussing online safety and cybersecurity with kids at a young age, so they develop good habits as they grow older. When talking to kids about cybersecurity, use language that they can understand and avoid using technical terms that they may not understand. Lastly, tell kids they should keep their personal information private, such as their full name, address, or phone number, with anyone online.
Talking to kids about cybersecurity best practices and being more involved in their life can help keep them safe online and prevent them from becoming victims of cybercrime. By having these discussions, you can help instill good habits that will last a lifetime.
Image Source: unsplash.com
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