The Good and Bad of Facebook
According to a report by EU Kids Online, over half of British children aged between 9 and 12 are using social media networks, with 1 in 5 using Facebook, despite the site ruling that users have to be 13 or over.
This worrying statistic is something which is a growing factor amongst many children throughout the world.
We hear more and more reports about youngsters falling prey to online predators, but even more likely, becoming victims of cyber bullying by their peers.
What does this all mean for the next generation?
Most children will experience some level of it at some point in their adolescence.
These days it has a far more sinister outlet in social media networks such as Facebook.
There is a level of anonymity involved which gives kids ample confidence to succumb to a gang mindset. McAfee (the internet anti-virus software company) ran a poll of youngsters in 2012 which showed that 25% of respondents had experienced cyber bullying and two-thirds had witnessed it online.
Worryingly, 92.6% said that this cruel behaviour took place on Facebook.
Teenagers are at such a fragile stage in their development that online harassment or negativity can impact on them immensely. Sadly it is becoming more and more common to see, with some teenagers even resorting to suicide.
Cyber bullying is becoming something we are more aware of and more controls are being developed to enforce punishments on those who choose to bully others online. It can be reported, and those involved can be traced, but it does require the strength and communication from the victims involved.
With the guidance and education from parents, cyber bullying can be monitored and handled, making social media a safer and a more enjoyable experience.
Let’s make that clear:
Time Spent on Facebook…
30% of children spend an astonishing 2 hours or more on Facebook each day.
Concerns from parents include fears that Facebook is being favoured instead of homework, and time spent with family.
With the development of smart phones, Facebook has never been so accessible so quickly.
There has also been a reported steady rise seen amongst children who own their own smart phone.
Television and computer games can also impact negatively upon a child’s life, yet moderation can see a child enjoy a well rounded lifestyle.
Parents are naturally concerned about their children’s use of social media and other online activities – 47% of parents admit that ensuring their children’s online safety can be overwhelming and 61% cite sharing personal information as their number one concern about social media.
But what can be done about their online safety?
There are the usual computer parental controls, but today’s sophisticated teens can often work around these to hide their online activities with around 80% claiming they can find their way around parental internet controls according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
Some parents are friends with their children through Facebook, while others have admitted to setting up a false profile so their children add them as a friend without knowing their true identity.
With the risks that they could become a target of bullying, gain unwanted attention from strangers, or reveal too much information online, many parents feel they have to supervise their children online.
Considering the age some children join Facebook, parents should actively police their children’s interactions online to make sure they are safe, just as they would in the real world until they reach an age where more freedom should be granted.
Is it all bad though?
Studies show that naturally shy teenagers can find their voice online and that others can show more empathy towards one another. Some are more comfortable interacting via Facebook than in real life situations. It can also be a useful education tool, one that teenagers find far more engaging than traditional methods.
So is the answer to encourage teens to learn to respect one another through Facebook?
It can mean that teenagers who live far from school and their social circles, in remote villages, can still maintain their friendships and keep up to date with their school-friends.
Facebook is a great interactive tool and provides opportunities for all, used wisely Facebook is a great social hub.
It seems only to cause trouble when parents fail to pay attention to their children’s online activity and encourage their children to speak up should they face negative experiences online.
Educate Your Children…
The best method is a tried and tested traditional one – educate your children by talking them through your concerns.
That way, if they have worries or experience cyber bullying or unwanted advances from strangers, they will come to you knowing that they can talk about these things without you flying off the handle!
Open lines of communication between you and your children won’t mitigate all online risk, but will give you both the confidence to use these sites more safely and sensibly.
Speak Your Mind, With Your Opinion
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