Parenting and its challenges in the age of the social media
When a day is dedicated for Social Media and you start seeing hashtags like #Socialmediaday everywhere online, you know it has arrived in our lives. While we are still trying to figure out if it has more positives or not, what we cannot deny is how the Internet and social media have shrunk the world, brought us closer and made us global citizens. These networks have become important channels for daily personal interactions and livewires that help us stay in touch with our friends and family.
Through various networks we also see how strangers living in a particular area or people of common interests can start interacting, making new friends and come together to support each other. As the founder of a mom community, I can confidently comment on how these networks help moms give and receive support at all levels.
After duly acknowledging all the big positives it has given us as adults, let us now bring our attention to our kids who have also slowly started using the various social media platforms. I was super thrilled when I saw my 11-year-old get on a video conference call to prepare for an upcoming contest. When I shared this with a friend, she cautioned me immediately of that day not being far away, when my child would demand access to apps like Snapchat and Instagram like its his birthright. While as a parent I understand the positives, I also cannot unsee the potential dangers that this space has for our young ones who are at a vulnerable phase.
Now, I am hardly an overprotective mom. But what makes it difficult is that there is something new everyday on the Internet – a new app, a new feature. Even before we could understand and process what it is, it has already reached the adolescents and teenagers – merely because it is an increasingly growing user base with heavy users in it.
I do not see denying my son Internet access as an option. That will amount to depriving him a great education resource and reference. I would rather want to educate him the advantages and disadvantages and raise him as an intelligent and smart internet user. Today, he has limited access to a phone and a laptop, on a need only basis. He is expected to take approval before every usage.
Of course this will change as he grows older. And hence in an effort to prepare myself to handle this phase, which is soon approaching, I invited pointers from members of Gurgaonmoms, on parenting the teenagers in the Social Media Age.
1. Age-appropriate access is important. As a parent, it is our responsibility to set the access controls right before we allow them to use any app or gadget
2. Educate them on personal information and why it is important to not share it on all websites and apps
3. Make them sensitive Internet citizens and teach them not to hurt anyone by bullying or gossiping
4. Keep close track of screen time. Be stubborn about now allowing it to interfere or replace their free playtime or real life interactions with friends and family
5. Remind the kids ‘with power comes responsibility’. Reward good social media behaviour
6. Shared computers in common areas are best. However, there are also several monitoring apps. Take necessary permissions from your kid and make them understand the need to install monitoring software, if you have to. No matter how tempting it is, do not snoop on them
7. Educate them on red flags like cyber bullying, sexting or strangers trying to establish a connection
8. Like all things in life, lead by example. Be watchful of what you do and speak of in front of them
Consider making a Social Media Contract with your kids with all the above-mentioned points. From our side we can promise them, that we will not snoop on them or tag them unnecessarily or do anything that would embarrass them (I know its tempting and tough but let’s keep our end of the bargain).
(An advocate of women’s rights, Neela Kaushik started a Facebook community called Gurgaonmoms to create a local support network for mothers in the city. Today, it has more than 25,000 members.)