Children need parents, not adult ‘friends’.
Children feel stress in many areas of their lives. At school they often worry about homework, peer pressure and the need to get good grades so that they can reach the next stage of their education. Kids feel pressures at home with chores, finding a quiet studying space, parental issues and sibling battles. There are also time demands for after school programming and sports responsibilities. All these types of stress are normal parts of developing into responsible and accomplished members of our society.
What is new to this generation is that kids are also feeling stress due to social media. They feel that their phones have control over them. According to The Daily Mail, 59% of children are using social media by the age of 10. 21% had posted negative comments and 26% had ‘hijacked’ another person’s account and posted without permission. Looking at other statistics, 43% had messaged strangers starting at the average age of 12. According to Guard Child, 43% of teens say they would change their online behaviour if they knew that their parents were watching them.
Kids are consumed with social media. They post and want to see how their messages are being received. They are often concerned with how many likes they are receiving and how many new followers they are getting. They need to keep their Snapchat streaks maintained to gain new stickers and virtual rewards. Facebook and Instagram now have Live Chats. Not only is this disruptive to teachers when their students are engaged with social media in the classroom, other children are being included who are either unaware that this happening or have not approved it. These victims of social media now feel that they have to be camera ready at all times in case they are caught in the background.
On top of the cyber-bulling and sexting worries, kids now have demands of their fan base. Some are moving from ‘content creators’ to ‘influencers’. With a fan base from 10,000 and 1,000 likes per photo, many children are being approached by big companies to be brand influencers. This may happen organically, with many posts featuring a specific brand but sometimes it happens through hard work using directing, writing, editing and agents to gain subscribers. Companies will send an email then a gift of free products to be featured in the next blog or Instagram feed (Earning money as a Brand Ambassador). Monster reports that there is no harm. I question that, especially when young kids are being approached with free gift certificates and a clothing allowance to do things that are commercially oriented. Parents may or may not be aware of this happening.
It is so important that parents play an active role in their child’s life and not try so hard to be their friend. Kristina Kuzmic is a Mother YouTube blogger who has got it right. She states quite clearly that your children do not need more friends. They need parents. She says that the number one job is to love them and loving them means to help guide them in becoming responsible adults. Until they are adults, you are the authority and you are not on the same level. If your kids like you 100% she says ‘you are probably failing as a parent’.
Harsh but true.
Here are some parenting ideas to help your children enjoy their social media experience:
1) Until your children have earned the right for privacy, keep the computer in a local area (kitchen or den) so that you can look over their shoulder and see what they are posting, watching and who they are talking to.
2) Give kids time limits – they often cannot self-regulate.
3) Just like in the real world, get to know where your child spends his/her time and know who their friends are.
4) Create family rules with the same consequences if they break those rules in the real world—do not talk to strangers. Do not give out your address or phone number to people you don’t know.
5) Set privacy settings.
6) Explain that every post stays there forever and is a future job interview.
7) Follow your kids on line to see what they are posting.
8) Be a good role model yourself (and if you are not on social media, get your kids to teach you. It can be a great bonding experience).
9) Surround yourself with people you know and who support you and lift your spirits.
10) Golden Rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated.
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