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I came across the following article in Sainsbury’s magazine, which although isn’t my usual source of content for the blog, in this case, it transcends both home and work life.
Like it or not, the use of social media is rife among teens – and even younger children. So what are the dangers and how can we keep our kids safe online?, asks Marina Gask.
If your children aren’t on Facebook yet, then chances are you won’t be able to stop them from joining at some point. ‘All my friends are on it’, ‘It’s just a laugh’, ‘You can’t stop me’ – a barrage of such arguments will be used until you relent, quite possibly before they reach 13, the age Facebook stipulates you must be to join.
According to a study by the London School of Economics (LSE), one in three children in the UK between the ages of 9 and 12 has their own Facebook page. Among 13-16-year-olds, that number shoots up to 88%. We can assume that of the 15.6 hours that, according to Ofcom, 12-15-year-olds are spending on the Internet each week, a large chunk will be spent on social media sites.
While social media sites may seem like a bit of harmless fun, there are some implications that need closer inspection. For example, half of European 11-16-year-olds say they find it easier to be themselves on the Internet than when they’re with people face to face according to the LSE study. These young people can behave one way in person but have a very different online persona. What’s more, young people tend to take more risks online and say things, post pictures or act in certain ways that they wouldn’t have the confidence to do in real life.
The fact is that engaging in the conversation online can make children feel more remote and therefore less accountable for their actions and words, and as a result, they can even say things that they later regret. Young people in online environments, particularly when instant messaging, can also sometimes feel more comfortable revealing really quite intimate things about themselves. “For people with a sexual interest in children, this can fast-track the grooming process”, says Jonathan Baggaley, head of education at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
As a parent, on the basis of these arguments, you would be forgiven for deciding that Facebook needs to be banned outright. But as long as we talk our children through the dangers and implications of social media behaviour, there’s no need to exclude them from one of the most popular forms of youth interaction of our time. Social media sites are a part of modern-day life and they’re here to stay.
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