Learn More About Kids and Social Media
Before even tackling the idea of social media danger, it’s important to first pay attention to the types of people who use social media in the first place. Who are these potentially dangerous people?
A Huge Portion of the Population
A substantial portion of the world’s population has access to the internet, at least in some capacity. At this point, over half the world’s population can access the internet, including a majority of people in every continent except Africa. In Europe and North America, nearly 90% of all people can access the internet, making it incredibly common for individuals in every area.
This can be both good and bad — the physical world, or “real world,” has a mix of safe and dangerous people. These are the same people that comprise the users of the internet. So, despite the way many people feel like the internet is more dangerous than the physical world, the two actually share many similarities. As with those in the physical world, most people with whom you may interact on the internet aren’t exceedingly dangerous.
People of Every Background
The general internet population strongly represents individuals of every background. Africa retains the lowest percentage of people with access to the internet of any continent. But even then, nearly 40% of its population uses the internet. In fact, based solely on population density, more people from Africa use the internet than people from North America.
This variety of backgrounds also includes other demographics. People of every race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, religious affiliation, and political belief congregate in various places on the internet, whether to communicate about those demographics or to engage in completely unrelated activities. This makes the internet a good place for discussion and learning. Of course, some of those discussions can lead to dangerous things.
Adults and Youths
This is one of the reasons that some parents feel uncertain about kids using the internet, and it definitely warrants discussion. Both adults and children use the internet to varying degrees and in varying settings. Some parents feel uncomfortable with the fact that their kids might use the same social media platforms that adults use.
One of the things that can be helpful is remembering that different people sometimes use the same platform for vastly different things. A young child might watch YouTube videos of nursery rhymes that a parent plays on a TV, while an adult might use YouTube to learn more about political science or current events. Determining what people do on a certain site or app is much more important than determining people’s ages.
How Can Social Media Be Dangerous?
Although you might hear certain sources espouse the horrors of social media, it might first help to understand why people hold those concerns. What are some genuine dangers that social media might pose?
Bullies and Trolls
As the internet grows in popularity, this particular demographic has come sharply into focus. It’s true that the internet, and especially the anonymity it can provide, can truly bring out the worst in people. With stories about people driven to terrible fates by bullying and other targeted attacks, it’s natural that you might want to simply shield your child from these problems altogether.
Something you might want to remember is that while online bullying is certainly a problem, bullying continues to happen in real life as well. No one should have to deal with people being unfairly antagonistic, but some kids deal with it at school every day much more than online. The key is to tackle all bullying similarly, rather than singling out online bullying.
Manipulators and Catfishers
Catfishing, which describes when someone pretends to be another person online for monetary gain, emotional connection, revenge or just for fun, is a big problem on some social media apps. Although this happens most prominently on dating apps and websites, some people use the general concept to manipulate friends and peers for the same reasons.
Education and being mindful of emotional health can play a big part in helping people identify and stay away from these manipulative individuals. That includes both adults and children. Although children tend to be more trusting, and may be at a higher risk in general, anyone can fall victim to one of these types of scams.
The internet is a very public place, and that means if you accidentally give out your information, it can really come back to bite you. In the early days of the internet, people regularly gave out important information like phone numbers and email addresses without thinking twice. But now that the internet is much more highly populated, it’s more important than ever to keep private information under wraps.
This impacts both adults and children. But because children may understand all the implications, it may impact them more heavily. Plus, while an adult’s information leaks often only impact that person, a child leaking information may actually impact the safety of the child’s parents, siblings, and other important figures. That definitely makes it a more high-stakes issue for children.
What Can I Do to Teach Kids About Social Media Safety?
The world population is more connected than ever before, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. In fact, it’s probably only going to continue to grow. So what can you do to encourage your kids to use social media safely, rather than trying to run them off it entirely?
Address Safety in Both the Virtual and Real World
It’s important that you teach your kids about safety in both the virtual realm and the physical realm. Teach your kids that while safety may look different in the physical and virtual realms, it’s just as important in both areas. And many of the tactics are very similar--and common sense--which makes them great to teach kids. For example, it’s always a good idea to teach your kids not to give out an address or phone number to anyone without asking you first. This is true both in-person and online.
With these kinds of safety discussions, there’s an important distinction that should be made between instilling caution in your child, and making them fearful. The advice and tools you provide your child should make them confident, so that they can identify safety concerns and then address them. What you don’t want is a child who grows up feeling perpetually scared and defenseless.
Stay Open and Approachable
One of the most important things you can do for your kids is to stay approachable about these types of topics. If your child worries that you won’t listen and just enforce strict punishment if they approach you about a problem, you’re more likely to grow apart. In turn, that may actually negatively impact safety for both of you.
That’s why it’s important for you to position yourself as an authority on safety. For example, if your child runs into online bullies, wouldn’t you want your child to feel like they can ask you for help? Rather than just deactivating that child’s social media profiles, you can instead work together with your child to develop a strategy for ignoring or stopping those bullies. It fosters communication and opens doors.
Keep Up-to-Date on Your Own Information
Because your child’s security missteps could also impact your own safety, it’s important that you stay up-to-date with your important information even more frequently than you usually would. If you’re looking for a way to do it, PeopleFinders is the first place you should go. You can regularly run a people search on yourself to scan your own information for confidentiality or errors.
It’s also a great tool for your own online safety. After all, you should stay just as safe in your online dealings as your kids. Set a great example for your children by taking your safety into your own hands with the help of the tools at PeopleFinders.