Parenthood has never been easy. For years, parents have had to navigate various trends and changes as they nurture and foster their children. However, these past couple of years has been unprecedented for parents as they help their children navigate the pandemic while managing school and other extracurricular activities.
With many schools, daycares, and babysitting services closed for significant periods of time as countries worldwide underwent multiple lockdowns, parents have had to rely on digital screens and other electronic devices to entertain and educate their children.
In a series of studies done by the Pew Research Center in April 2021, it was found that parents with children under the age of 11 felt that their children were spending too much time playing video games or smartphones scrolling through social media.
Parenting in the age of technology and social media can present multiple challenges. This study from ScienceDirect details how children who use social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat before age 11 are more likely to develop problematic behaviors.
Besides the amount of time spent on social media, another aspect parents are generally concerned about with their children spending so much time in front of their screen is the occurrence of cyberbullying found on these platforms.
Cyberbullying can happen in many ways, from direct messages on social media to text messages and other posts. However, one thing every type of cyberbullying has in common is that it’s all done to harass, humiliate, and embarrass its victims deliberately. Research by Security.org has found that 21 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 18 were cyberbullied in 2020.
So, how do parents do their best parenting while tackling technology and the need to keep their children safe on social media?
Parents undoubtedly play a vital role in shaping their children’s experience with social media and other types of technology. For starters, children are extremely good at copying what they see. Their children will likely follow suit if their parents don’t demonstrate responsible behavior while using social media and other gadgets.
Instinctively, parents might want to restrict their children from using social media or any type of screen until a certain age. While their intentions are good and perfectly valid, setting restrictions might not always be easy to execute.
To better protect their children from the dangers that arise due to social media, perhaps, parents could change manage their concerns differently. Here are some things parents can do:
Educate their children on various social media issues
By educating their children from a young age about the dangers of social media, parents could do a lot to show their children what to do if they encounter such situations. Instead of responding directly to bullies, parents could take children through the proper steps to report and block such bullies.
Plus, by introducing and talking them through these issues, parents are creating a safe space that allows their kids to open up to them in the future.
Take them through safety settings on social media
Instead of limiting their children on social media, parents could do one better and take them through all the safety settings they need to know to keep them safe. For example, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have settings that keep accounts private, limit words and phrases, and restrict random comments and direct messages.
Regularly check in on them
If you’re following your kids on social media, make it a point to check in on their followers and following lists regularly. Ask them if they’re experiencing anything on social media affecting them, whether it’s a comment or direct message.
You might also want to take it further and check their social media accounts. Of course, always ask if they’re comfortable with that to respect their privacy and personal space.
Before implementing these steps, it’s also essential for parents to stay up to date on different cyberbullying trends happening worldwide and where these incidents usually take place. While parents can’t always be there to protect their children from cyberbullying, there are definitely multiple things they can do to try and keep them safe.