Whether we like it or not, social media platforms are reshaping our social relations. This is especially true for younger generations who grew up alongside technology and whose social interactions primarily rely on social networks. While tech enables us to stay connected with our loved ones and create new relationships more easily, it also causes us to become more detached and less empathetic toward people around us.
Unsurprisingly, this inability to connect with others and the overall lack of empathy that results from communicating almost exclusively through social networks is linked to higher instances of online bullying.
For example, a recent study by ExpressVPN showed that 22% of kids in the US are being bullied online, while 34% of them reported someone swearing at them or being rude. Furthermore, 43% of bullying scenarios happen on YouTube, while children’s favorite social network, TikTok, is responsible for 28% of cyberbullying incidents.
So, are your hands completely tied? Is there anything you can do to protect your children online without banning them from using social media platforms?
Luckily, there are steps to be taken to ensure your children are safe and protected while enjoying their time online. To help you out, we picked some easy tips you can follow.
How to protect your children online
Children, especially teenagers, reluctantly talk about the bullying they face online, and they often don’t report cyberbullying to their parents or caretakers. To prevent this, start openly talking about social media and ask them without prejudice what they’re experiencing and how they are handling online communication. If you notice your child has been involved in inappropriate online behavior, try to stay calm and show them you appreciate their openness and willingness to share this information with you. If you think the situation requires professional input, don’t hesitate to seek professional help or advice on how to help your child.
ExpressVPN’s study showed that 13-year-olds in the US spend an average of 45 minutes on social media every day. Even more surprising is that 4-year-olds spend 21 minutes on social networks daily. To minimize the risk of engaging in inappropriate behaviors, try to limit your children’s screen time, especially if you have younger kids. Don’t get too restrictive, and have an understanding of their social needs. Make sure to explain why it’s necessary to have a healthy balance between screen time and other activities and try to plan family activities that would encourage them to spend less time online.
Monitoring every step your child takes is never a good idea as it can lead to distrust, and it can ultimately harm your relationship with your child. However, checking your child’s browsing history or app activity from time to time can help you to get a better overview of their online activities. Make sure you’re not doing it behind their back, and explain why you’re doing it and how it can be beneficial to them.
Even though some online threats are old as the internet itself, bullies and cybercriminals are finding new and more sophisticated ways of luring new victims, and the consequences of these acts can have severe and long-term effects on your child’s well-being. Try to be on top of things and seek reliable information from authoritative sources on how to protect your children online and what potential threats they may face on social media.
The sheer number of online bullying incidents can make you feel helpless. However, fostering open communication with your children can be detrimental to protecting them and steering them in the right direction if they face cyberbullying. Ensure you have an overview of their online activities and stay informed about the potential threats they may face on social media.
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