Mon | Nov 28, 2022

Social media and your child Pt II

Published:Monday | July 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

Social media is everywhere and you cannot hide it from your child. So what do you do? Do you filter them or do you forbid them? Mother of two Marica Mitchell chooses to educate and filter.

Both her children are at opposite ends of the social media spectrum. Mitchell has a 10-year-old son that forbids her from posting any photo of him on social media - he hates it. She would have to ask his permission before posting. On the other hand, her eight-year-old daughter loves social media and this is where she has to strike the balance.

Mitchell tells Outlook that she started her daughter's Instagram page to get her involved in modelling. The page was just to help with prospective clients. However, her daughter has gained an interest in the Internet. She has not prohibited her from exploring, but she uses it with her, monitoring every website that she views, and ensures that the sites she visits goes through her account. While her daughter owns a tablet, she is the one who keeps it.

"I see every site they visit, what they do, what they share, who they connect with. I had an issue with my daughter and, and we cancelled her account. My children do not have cell phones, and I monitor their games, YouTube accounts and computer time," she said.

However, she not only monitors, she educates her children. "Both of my children have been through cybersecurity training with me. We talk about games, social media, sharing personal information and YouTube," she told Outlook.




She not only places restrictions on her children, but on herself - careful of who she follows, and what she posts. Mitchell wants to be an example and cannot afford for her children to see her post anything that may be deemed as inappropriate.

Admittedly, Mitchell is a little nervous when it comes to her daughter and social media. While she does not plan to relinquish the page until her daughter is 15 or 16 years old, she is still nervous about this. Her daughter is aware of how 'likes' works, and sometimes places an emphasis on it. As a result, she has to tell her that she should not be pressured to depend or feel validated by the likes.

Mitchell believes that the best way to deal with your children and social media is open communication. Her daughter shares everything with her and she hopes to maintain this relationship.

Associate clinical psychologist Justine East outlined a few tips for parents to follow, before allowing their children to set up or manage their own social media accounts:

1 Talk to them about what sites they have heard of from friends, which they have interest in and why? What do they like about these sites?

2 Be honest and discuss your concerns about some of these sites. Share what your concerns are as a parent, and try to get their views on issues, for example, nudity, cyberbullying, Blue Whale game - suicide challenge, and sexual predators. Tell them about the sites that you believe is age-appropriate, and why others might not be, so that they have an understanding. For example say, "I don't mind Facebook, but I think you need to be a little older for this one" or "Let's try one site first and if you show that I can trust you to use it appropriately, we can create one on another."

3 Set clear guidelines or rules. For example, no site visits after a certain time - this may mean agreeing to submit cell phones or laptop to parents at bedtime; also having weekly observations of what the child is doing on these sites. But while doing this, it is important to put some trust in the child and give some amount of privacy, so this should be done with caution.

4 Encourage your child to share anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or hurt while interacting on social media. Encourage them before and after being bullied to be strong. For example, not to blame themselves and be ashamed of who they are.

Look out for some warning signs which may include sadness, anger, or distress related to using the Internet or phone. Note if the child seem worried or nervous, or shows changes in mood, behaviour, sleep patterns, appetite or other signs of depression or anxiety. Observe if they avoid discussions or are hiding information about computer or phone activities, signs of social withdrawal and loss of pleasure in activities they once enjoyed, unexplained drop in grades, refusing to attend school or specific places or activities.