Social media can be a great method to keep in touch with family, friends, news and other diversions that can give pleasure to your life. However, it can easily become a breeding ground for bullying and legal problems if you are deemed a threat. Between the interactions children have with each other that can cause problems and students being arrested because of "terrorist threats," is there a line that can be drawn somewhere? All we can really do as parents is to inform our children of the dangers that surround social media websites.
What are some topics that need to be addressed in order to protect your children?
1. Cyber-bullying - The Internet allows anyone to have a voice whether a comment is justified or not. As there is no physical personal interaction between people, it is common to have a kind of veil that makes saying anything easier. Teaching your children to ignore these bullies is a good start.
Children that are armed with the knowledge that people are going to say things for no other purpose than because they can, will start to realize that these bullies are not worth the effort to become upset over. Even if you were to have the most brilliant comment ever posted, there will be someone waiting to criticize it for no reason. As long as you are respectful to those around you, it's easy to determine friend from foe.
2. Terrorist Comments - Unfortunately, social media has also began to show signs of how little tolerance the country has for freedom of speech in regards to "terrorist activities." Teenagers who have no prior offenses, weapons, or background regarding disturbed behavior are essentially banned from making a tasteless joke regarding the death of school children. The punishment: jail time.
Students who are curious as to how far the system will go will make a comment about having a bomb followed by a, "let’s see what happens" type of statement will be arrested as well. Sit your children down and have a serious conversation as to why certain behavior and comments are not acceptable. It is one thing to tell them not to do it, but it provides more of an effect if the children understand why.
3. Personal Information - It's easy to get wrapped up in conversations with those on the Internet. There are many times when even adults may slip up and provide too much information about his or her private life. Your children need to understand that sharing personal information could put them in harm’s way. Friends and family already know who you are; there is no reason to take it any further with a stranger.
You can never trust everything you see on the Internet. Although the picture of a profile could be a teenager that is trying to befriend your son or daughter, it could be an older man or woman looking to take advantage of them. Again, emphasize more on the "why" instead of just making a rule. This can help them further understand the importance of his or her actions. Telling them, "Because I said so" doesn't give them incentive to obey.
Instead of sheltering your children from the ravages of the Internet, give them the power to overcome the adversities. The Internet can be a safe and entertaining experience as long as it's not abused and misunderstood. Providing further explanations to specific circumstances can help them protect themselves from the dangers of interaction.