My daughter doesn't have a Facebook account. She isn't aware of how Twitter works and she knows that Whatsapp exists but only knows that we can send and receive messages and photographs via this medium.
Of course, she is only 10. She turned 10 just last week, as a matter of fact and it was a matter of great joy and pride to see the baby I held in my arms now all grown up as a young lady making her way into the world of double digits.
People have asked me in the past how much time she's spent with gadgets and it's a matter of personal pride that I've been able to say with confidence that it's been hardly more than 2 hours in a week.
You'd think that's impossible given that we're surrounded by gadgets today. In a household that has 3 family members there are at least 6 digital devices at any given time. But, it's honestly just been a matter of choice where we were concerned.
Social media, in my opinion, has two major influences on children today: one being the amount they themselves spend online and the other being the amount they are projected online via their parents' updates and photographs.
Children and gadgets
Friends of mine have wondered how I've limited the use of gadgets for Gy. The answer is pretty simple: I say 'No'. I tell her that there are so many other things she can do: read, quill, play outdoors, chat with friends in person, go for a Nature walk, ride a bike, use a skateboard, clean up her room, organise a shelf in her wardrobe, paint, sketch, draw - you get the idea.
Does this mean no gadgets at all? Not necessarily. The school has also recently incorporated some gadget use but it's all educational so I set aside time for her each week to spend on learning apps as well as some sketching apps. Games? A few here and there are fine but I am a stickler for time and definitely do not allow more than 20-30 minutes at a stretch and just once during the week.
To her credit, she's been very conscious herself and switches off gadgets when I say so.
I've heard parents say that it's impossible to keep kids occupied and they especially find it challenging when they go outdoors for a meal or an evening out with friends. As much as it may kill you to hear this, let them get bored. Boredom is good for kids as it helps them unwind and also process the idea of doing nothing. Too much stimulation of the brain is also not ideal, as you'd have noticed.
Gy received a Wi-Fi device this birthday from us which does not have a SIM card. She accesses Skype which we use to chat with her dad who's away during the week and a couple of learning apps which help with her academics. That's about it.
Read: Is your kid smart enough for a smartphone?
Children and being on social media
For the purposes of this post, I'm going to restrict myself to parental roles and assume that your kids are below the age of consent. Older kids and social media behaviour will have to make for a separate post.
I've been a vocal advocate of cyber security and cyber safety when it comes to information being posted online about children. Cyber bullying is a real threat and most of us brush it off with the notion,'That couldn't happen to me. I'm too careful.'
There's a reason I use Gy when I refer to my daughter. It's her identity online and one that I don't want to mess around with, frankly. As she grows up her full name with her credentials will have to lead back to her and what she has done, not what I've done for her.
I think I may have offended a few people recently when I gently messaged them to say that they use 'Gy' when referring to my daughter on Facebook, even if we are good friends offline. But I don't mean to upset anyone; I merely request that you protect her privacy. Not all my friends on my Facebook list are people I have necessarily met in person and it pays to be wary.
I've also spoken about the need for better privacy controls and settings when it comes to sharing pictures of your kids online. I get that you're keen to share your joy with the world, believe me. But these are kids we're talking about.
If you must share pictures of your kids, do it with caution:
As parents and as bloggers, a lot of us have a responsibility towards two sets of people: our kids and our readers. How do we tread the line of propriety without over-stepping the bounds of embarrassment and/or security?
- Do not geo-tag photos of them or add any identifying marks such as the names of the schools/ places they visit.
- Try not to take photos which show their face completely or at least ensure that these are only shared with very close friends and family that you can trust.
- Use tastefully taken photos that you can use online without compromising on their identity.
- Do not use pictures of your kids in your social media profile photos or cover pictures. These are always public.
- If they are old enough, ask them before posting their pictures online. Trust me, it's never too early to start asking.
We take precautions and we exercise our judgement as to what works for our family. I realise that will vary significantly with each parent and that's fine. Just keep in mind that your child will grow up and will see themselves online in some form or another a few years from now. Putting yourself in their shoes each time you post an update or a picture today will go a long way towards striking that balance effectively.
Labels: Cyber Bullying, Cyber safety, parenting, Social Media, Useful Tips