Philip Masterson advocates for parents to take an active role in the digital lives of their children and initiate healthy discussions about the dangers of online interactions.
The digital age has displaced your children from the rough and tumble of the residential playground to the lethargy of your living room couch. Today, playground equipment would hold very little to no value to your children. The outdoors, the playground, the tree climbing, and most physical activities have been rendered obsolete by the invention of hand-held tablet devices. The digital age ushered in an era where children are able to sit around all day “playing” and “socializing” with their friends through different devices, through different apps and websites online. As the parent, you are obviously concerned with this growing trend and having troubles as well in balancing technology from outdoor play, especially if we consider the whole new set of negatives that compound this ill lifestyle.
The online lifestyle is not good for anyone, especially your children. Aside from hindering children from getting their needed daily physical activity and leading to a plethora of health issues like obesity, the online realm also poses red flags that could scare any good and responsible parent. The availability and accessibility of different materials and different forms of media scares parents especially when we consider the curiosity of children below twelve. Wandering kids can stumble upon unwanted content without the watchful eye of their parent. On the social spectrum of the online venue, children are also exposed to virtual contact to absolute strangers. Social media websites do not filter the people your child meet online and therefore makes it entirely possible for them to meet complete strangers from any part of the world. To add to this is the growing anonymity among social media users, posers as they are called. The identity of the people your children meet online can never be truly confirmed unless they absolutely know this person. Probably the reddest red flag there is would be the danger of cyber bullying.
The Cyber Bully
Bullying in real life is already terrible so one can only imagine the possible terrors of having cyber bullies. Online bullies, or cyber bullies are a virtual presence that produces hateful material to deliberately demean or humiliate someone. On social media websites like Facebook or Twitter, cyber bullies create hateful and often insulting posts or tweets that specifically attack a person. The thing that makes it worse is that these forms of humiliation are public and can therefore be seen not only by your child but also the people linked to him through the social media website. The digital age has provided a comfortable venue for bullies and a no-escape space for the bullied child. Cyber bullies can also be meaner that actual bullies. The veil of a computer screen that separates the child from the cyberspace removes the sense of inhibition a bully might feel when bullying someone in person. Because they are doing it online, the feeling that they are actually bullying is lessened. It’s not entirely easy to eliminate any post or tweet these bullies produce. Although both Facebook and Twitter have provided mechanisms to report bullying online, their response isn’t always quick, what with all the billions of online media users and consequently millions of bullying reports they receive. Being bullied online provides little to no escape for your child. What’s worse is that logging off or even unplugging the computer wouldn’t end it all. If your child leaves the online realm, the bullying may still go on behind his or her back. People online can continue to post or tweet about your children. The effect of this form of torture is unspeakable; especially if we consider that it can victimize children.
There is no full-proof solution to cyber bullying, no one-step measure to end it as well. What you, as parents, should do is to prevent it from ever happening to your child. This does not mean, however, a complete and lifetime ban on any form of gadget that allows them access online. What you need is to have a talk which will empower your kid against bullying. Let them know the dangers of the internet; don’t let them be ignorant of the realm they are entering. Also, more importantly, let them understand that they are and should be responsible for whatever they do online. Let them understand that they are accountable for the things they write, post or tweet. More than making them wary of the people they interact with online, this measure will make them own up to the things they do online and will be a step in the right direction in preventing anyone from being cyber bullies.
You can keep watch over your children even online. Don’t completely buy into the idea that children need complete privacy. You’re their parents and it’s not intrusion to make sure that your child isn’t doing anything funky online. You don’t have to do this physically. A lot of software have been made to restrict the websites your child can visit online. Internet browsers are also installed with measures that allow you to track the websites your child visits in a day. Don’t be afraid to use these means to help you track your child’s online activities. Inform yourself about them since it’s very easy for children to outsmart their parents about things related to computers. It’s better to do these preventive measures since after all, they will run to you when something actually happens. And when that time comes, you may have little to no option to consider.
Lastly, don’t lose your children to the virtual world. Bring them back to the actual world you yourself loved when you were a child. Drag them by the hair if you have to. Make kids sociable through playgrounds, not Facebook or Twitter. Playground interactions for parents and kids allow for actual and real-life conversations with all its quirks and nuances. These teach them valuable life skills that they could never learn online. Playgrounds teach parents lessons as well. They teach you to view your children under a different light. They are children after all, and if they should be doing something at this age, it’s playing in playgrounds with other kids, having fun and learning about life at the same time.