Are your kids on Facebook or Tumblr? If they’ve ventured out into the social media world, then you need to be aware of the dangers they may encounter. While most parents understand the threat of cyberbullying, online predators, and the like, few stop to think about the values (or lack thereof) that their kids could be learning from social media.
On social media, you are the center of your virtual world. You can post everything from who you’re dating to what you ate for breakfast and expect an onslaught of instant replies from online friends. The kind of instant attention could promote a false sense of importance, especially for impressionable youngsters. Part of being a kid is thinking that the world revolves around you, but do we really want to encourage this misconception?
Familiarity may breed contempt, but anonymity encourages apathy. It’s a whole lot easier to say something mean-spirited when you’re protected by the screen barrier than it is to say the same thing to someone’s face. Unfortunately, this “protection” sends the message that words don’t have consequences. If you’ve heard any of the recent stories about cyberbullying, then you know that nothing could be further from the truth.
If you have a social media profile yourself, then you know that it’s both easy and tempting to create an ideal image of yourself and your life. While there’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward on social media networks, exaggerating your happiness or success could have negative psychological consequences, especially if you don’t have a “real world” friend to open up to. That’s not to say that kids should air their dirty laundry online; after all, they must create a positive online reputation in order to be employable one day!
There are lots of good things about the Internet and social media, but in order to benefit from them, kids need to be aware of what obstacles to avoid. As you continue to talk to your kids about online safety, make a point to bring up what it means to be a good digital citizen and teach them to how to avoid developing unhealthy values as a result of their online interactions.