Your Children’s online awareness and 10 top tips for Parents

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Social media, being always online and your children

Parents, don’t know your Whatsapp from your Fortnite or your “Ride the pony” from “taking the L” then read on….If your children are anything like mine, they want to be online playing games or updating their social media status pretty much every waking hour.  The online world and being always contactable is the new “drug” of choice for most teens. It’s highly addictive so can be difficult for some teens to stop themselves connecting for FOMO (“fear of missing out”) or because of peer pressure.  This leads on to all sorts of nasty stuff like cyber bullying, cyberpredators and the inability to relax or “switch off” due to being always connected.  In my day, the bell rang at school at 3pm and by about 3.15pm I was home in my little bubble of happiness without any outside “commentary” on my life and the people in it.  So, what can you do? Control and track what your children experience online or raise their awareness and educate them on what to should be doing online?  I will aim to show it is a combination of the two but with a stronger emphasis on education and awareness.

Digital Culture

I am increasingly fascinated by digital culture which sees our lives being interwoven with technology so that the “need” to be online has become highly addictive.  Unfortunately, our children also seem to have been sucked in to the vortex of our self-created digital world which triggers a hit of dopamine every time someone “likes” our post on Facebook.   Our headphones I liken to an intravenous drip attached straight to our brains, so we can look at a screen and listen to music at the same time creating sensory overload.  Our children are also fully connected to technology in their day to day lives through smart watches, mobiles phones, ipads, chrome books, TVs etc.  This is where parents need to set an example to their children by taking time out from the digital world, get outside and away from devices, maybe even have an online or device free days/week, a digital detox as it were.

Always online

There is no escaping the need to be more connected and our feeling of a growing reliance on technology to live our daily lives.  With our heads buried in our cell phones we may see life pass us by, that treasured moment at your child’s school play or beautiful sunset (that does not need to be then posted on Instagram) or that oncoming car.  Cell phones also give us an easy way out. Picture this, you are at family event that is “boring”, do you go and mingle, or do you stick with the only familiar face you do know, old faithful the iPhone?  This is leading to anti-social behaviour and the further blurring of lines between the real and online world, where you use one to escape the other and where our children will copy our behaviours.  Sure, we as parents can track there every move online using software such as Net Nanny, but that’s not the point at some stage your children will go on line with out that safety net or you knowing, so is that the best option for your children?

Awareness

So, what to do? Our children will go online you can’t stop that, even if it is at school, using google class rooms or using on line education applications.  But at school they are relatively sheltered from the bad of the online world.  So rather than deny, lets educate our children and make them aware of the good and bad of what can happen when they go online.  Don’t get me wrong the online world is full of possibilities, from creating a business, selling your stuff or finding out information for that school assignment.  For your children it is a big wide world available to them, they can play online games (such as Roblox and Fortnite) and talk to their mates or even ask siri what the answer is to a hard maths question.  Our children need their parents to educate them as to the more unsavoury side of the being online, such as never giving out your passwords, sharing inappropriate pictures of themselves and unless you know who you are chatting to (i.e. one of your mates) it could be a 50-year-old pretending to be a teenager (don’t friend a stranger).  Parents need to be more aware of the online world and be able to see it from their children’s perspective?  Parents, your teenagers aren’t on Facebook, that is apparently our generations social media platform of choice.  Our teenagers are on Instagram and Snapchat or even WhatsApp’s and would generally not be seen on Facebook.

WhatsApp

The social platform that us parents need to be very aware of is WhatsApp, all you need is a mobile phone. Once you have downloaded Whatspp it requires no password and with your mobile phone you can then start sending messages, photos or videos.  Unlike other online platforms, such as Facebook or YouTube it provides no filtering of inappropriate content.  As parents we need to educate our children on the darker side of these platforms, such as making sure you know who you are talking to, never send inappropriate content of yourselves and to actually talk to you if they are uncomfortable with anything they see.  Let them know they can block contacts if needed. Parents must also be aware of the latest social media and online trends, possibly a full-time job but worth the effort, but also makes you potentially more relatable for your children.  There is nothing quite like discussing the latest legendary card on Clash Royale.  For more information on WhatsApp I loved this article by Teen Safe, called Everything a Parent needs to know about WhatsApp

As parents we need to educate our children on the light and dark side of the online world #parenting Click To Tweet

How parents can help with with social media?

Even as our children grow up, they are bombarded with and by social media and with all that it entails such as trolling, cyber bullying, privacy breaches, as well as getting sucked in to various online platforms that are trending at the time.   It is up to us as parents to educate our children on both the good and bad of being online and that should include a conversation about how they want to be perceived online.  Parents should also think about what they upload with regards to their children and ask themselves, “would my child actually thank me for sharing this once they have grown up?”  Being more aware of the social media trends including privacy settings and what is trending or not is all part of the world that parents and children now live and taking a blasé attitude to social media is no longer appropriate where it could be detrimental to you and your children.

Roblox

My children love playing Roblox, where they can actually set up accounts without you knowing, so you must make sure that a parent’s email address is added to the account as well as PIN number so some settings can’t be changed without it.  That way you can add some privacy settings to the account, it also allows you to reset a password and set more controls on the chat capability for that account.  Roblox have also created a guide for parents which is well worth a read.  The game also allows children to report abuse, but again education and awareness between child and parent will be your best line of defence.

Fornite

The free online game taking the world by storm, from crazy dance moves (such as taking the L) to zany costumes and items to buy or collect.  To uninitiated its basically a “Battle Royale” where 100 players start by being dropped out of a bus on to a small island where it’s a fight to the last person standing.  But as the game progresses the playing area reduces so that players have to be in the eye of the storm. Its free to play but you can make purchases through the game, so make sure you don’t but your credit card details in there if you don’t want that to occur.  As it is a game played with 100 other people your children may hear colourful language as they are playing, something to be aware of and to again educate your children on.  You child can join the lobby with their friends at the beginning of the game and turn off the audio of the other players whilst still communicating with their friends.

It is effectively a shoot-um-up but there is no bloody violence you can get with other similar games and the graphics and visual styling make it more child friendly and they can team up with their mates.  So, when you create an account make sure you use your email address and enable 2 factor authentication so no one else can hack that account.  Games usually take around 15-20 if you last the distance so limiting your children to 3 to 4 games in any one sitting should be enough to get their fix.  Whatever you do, don’t ask them to stop mid game otherwise they lose any points accumulated and let down their team mates any more than likely you will get a rather terse response from your child.

Top 10 – a few tips for Parents:

  1. Talk openly about the online/social media world and what appropriate looks like and that you are always there for them to talk about their experiences;
  2. Educate yourself on the latest online trends;
  3. Acknowledge your children’s good and bad online behaviours and set expectation;
  4. Educate your children on social media smarts, such as not to reveal personal information, passwords, chat with strangers or divulge credit card information;
  5. Understand what your children are doing on line, what games they are playing? and are they suitable?
  6. Play the games yourself and try out social media applications used by your children;
  7. Be up with the latest social media platforms;
  8. Frequently check your privacy settings on your social media profile’s (and also get your children to do the same);
  9. Get your children outside and away from screen, maybe even screen free days/weeks;
  10. Set a positive example to your children when going online and using social media.

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2 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    Great article Pete – also take the phones, devices, etc away at set times – eg after 9pm. The chats that happen late at night in big groups can be so negative!

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