The Dark Side of Social Media and Mobile Devices. Is Your Child Among These?
There is an immediate need of education and awareness.
Some ten years back, the era of smartphones began. Fast forward to today, ten years later, smartphones have literally taken over our life.
Want to shop online, use smartphone. Need to call a cab, use smartphone. Want to catch up on the latest news and updates, use the smartphone. It has become an indispensable part of our lives.
Staying in touch with near and dear ones is not just about telephone calls anymore. Instead we rely more on video calls and messaging platforms, which would not have been possible without smartphones.
And then came the tablets. Same functions and conveniences, bigger screen. It had an added function. That of being a child’s companion.
It was a God-send for parents looking for a solution to keep their children occupied. Little did they know of the dangers involved.
Mobile devices are an instant solution for parents with bored and restless children. Parents dragging their children to grown-up parties or family-functions, rely more on these mobile devices to keep their children occupied.
Working parents try to make up for their absence with a mobile device, ostensibly to “keep in touch” with them. Even when home, the parents are busy and choose to leave their children alone with their mobile companions.
What they fail to understand, or conveniently choose to ignore is that nothing can replace actual, face-to-face interaction.
Children are children. They instantly adapt to any given situation. When a mobile device provides them with on-demand entertainment in the form of games and online content, they mistake it for companionship. Especially the younger children.
At the age when they are supposed to be learning to communicate and interact with others of their age, they are locked away in a virtual world. Instant isolation.
They just don’t know how they are supposed to handle people in the real world. In some extreme cases, children are even known to be emotionally detached from their own parents.
Also, the lure of games and entertainment often leads them to ignore their studies, ultimately affecting their marks and academic standing.
It’s a Dark World Out There!
The internet is like an iceberg. No matter how vast it looks, only about 1/3rd of it is visible. The rest is hidden. And it is this hidden part which is the most dangerous.
It is full of inappropriate content; the likes of which children should not watch. Live shootings, decapitation videos, torture videos, the list goes on and the content is endless.
Facebook was in trouble some years ago over allowing sharing of some decapitation videos. And then there’s the sexual content. It is free and easily available, and for impressionable minds, it becomes the only sex-education they will ever receive.
Children unknowingly stumble on it and being prohibited, it is fascinating for them. Some recent phenomena like the ‘Blue Whale’ game should be an eye-opener for parents. And it is among the few known ones. There are many more dangers out there which are not known outside certain communities.
The internet is a great leveller. It is easy to mask your real identity under layers of technology. As such it is the perfect place for the likes of sexual predators who try to lure their prey from behind the layers of anonymity.
The advent of social media has also given rise to what is known as cyber bullying.
It is the worst form of bullying as it happens in front of a potentially global audience. The worst cases have often led to depression and ultimately, suicide.
In such cases, it is often difficult for distraught parents to find out what happened. They might not ever realize the role internet has played in their loss, leaving them without answers.
Counterattack – What can the parents do?
For parents, it is just a simple matter of being better educated about the internet. We have a list of what parents can do to minimize the impact of mobile devices which serve as a gateway to the internet.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
If you are technologically challenged and find yourself lost in the online world, try and educate yourself. Read up. There are a lot of good books available which will hand-hold you through the intricacies of the internet.
Supervise your child’s time with the mobile device.
Most of the mobile devices now include a child mode. Use it. It allows you to control what your child can access online.
Find some engaging, child-friendly content.
The internet can be an excellent medium for learning and adding to your child’s extra-curricular knowledge. You can sit with your child and make it fun with some quality family-time.
Limit your child’s time with the mobile device.
This is probably the most second-important point. Strictly enforce a limit on the child’s time with the mobile device.
Communicate with your child.
The most important thing that you can do is to keep communication open with your child. Make the child confident enough to approach you with any and all questions or issues that they have, however silly or trivial they seem to you. If you keep yourself approachable and they see that you take their problems seriously, you have won the battle.
The world is a dangerous place as it is. It is better to prepare your child to face the world on all fronts, rather than trying to hold their hands at every juncture.
Awareness is your child’s best weapon. Teach them to be aware and question what they do not understand. You can then rest a bit easy as a parent.
Be sure to share your experiences and thoughts here. Let us know how you counterattacked and won your child back.