The dark side of social media

Normally it’s the parents who teach their kids everything that can happen in life. But there is one single thing their children know much more about and have to explain their parents how it works: social media. Kids grow up with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They use these networks everywhere on their phones. But what makes these social networks so fascinating? And what can parents do to protect their children of its risks?

The internet shows lots of faces, but who is actually on the other side of the screen?

Parents want their kids to be safe. So one advantage of the mobile phone is that the kid can call whenever she or he needs help. This can make it easier for both sides when the teenager no longer wants to be permanently supervised. But parents shouldn’t call all the time to ask if things are still going well. And certainly they can’t be around all the time. It is the life of their kids, and at some point they need to become independent. 

Only a few decades ago there were no phones. Kids left their houses anyway to meet with friends and it worked. But parents these days sometimes tend to overprotection which can cause insecurities to their kids. They think they can’t do anything without a grownup being next to them. But when it comes to phones, it’s the kids who know how to use it. It’s the way to stay in touch with friends, and many other people from all over the world.

These days more than 80 % of all teenagers use their phone every day. The most time they spend on social media. It’s where they chat with friends, and talk about things they like and hate. It’s part of their lives, part of their way of communication. Without their phones, teenagers feel they miss something, like not being the first to know something about a friend or the favorite celebrity. So the hardest punishment for a kid is no longer to be grounded, but when the phone is taken away from them. 

Besides the good aspects, there is also a very bad one: cyber bullying. The number of cases is increasing. Every second kid is a victim of cyber bullying. Parents may know of the risks, they have told their kids to never talk to strangers, but on the Internet things seems to be different for them. 

On social media everyone can be who she wants. A kid with low self-esteem who might be mad at herself because of that, can pretend to be a tough girl online. Most people feel secure in front of the screen as they don’t see the person they bully face-to-face. The victim often doesn’t know who the actual person is. And most of the victims don’t talk about it or ask for help. But that’s what they need to stop the torture. 

 Parents must be aware of the risks, but also should trust their kids. Checking their phones and reading their messages is the worst thing to do. Instead it’s talking and showing interest in the teenager’s life and offer support when needed. Parents don’t have to be friends with their kids and friends on Facebook. That would be another way of permanent supervision. But it strengthens the bond between parents and theirs kids, when they keep talking to each other. Sometimes it is over the phone and sometimes in person. 

We live in a world that is a mixture of being offline and online. So parents teach their kids about the offline world and kids tell their parents about the online world. Because what happens in the virtuality also affects the reality. 

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