Gone are the days when all gadgets were so expensive we could barely afford them. Parents are now buying their 8 year olds smartphones. I got my first phone after form four and it was a pretty nice phone, ok it was an Ideos but I couldn’t help but floss. The phone had internet: Facebook and twitter and that is when I signed up on all these social media platforms. This was the time when any friend request on Facebook was accepted. I accepted most invites but stopped when random people would start with their “Oh how pretty eyes you have. Can I have a photo of you?” nonsense. I unfriended most of them and had 200 friends for a while.
I knew better or maybe the fact that I got my phone late gave me the chance to interact with actual people and actually learn the intentions of people. At 8 years old the child might get themselves in things they did not sign up for. My problem is not with the 8 year olds but rather teenagers. A person in their teens is more curious than a cat and is also craving to fit in. You hear your best friend has a boyfriend and you go get one. Your friend has a phone and you want an even better one. Your friend is chatting with a ‘nice’ boy from Kuala Lumpur and you want in. The fact that everyone is doing something you also want to do it.
On social media there are a lot of people who can influence the teens in a negative way. We all know that gossip and trash talk is sweeter than talking about how you can save money. Teens will subscribe to these pages or persons and they will not know it is wrong because they want to be cool. They will talk like those people tweet and will influence others later in life. It is a vicious cycle.
A person will appear on their Facebook chat or slide into their DM and ask for an inappropriate photo of them and they will send it. Why is this happening? Parents are not present in the kids’ lives. They leave for work at 6 am and come back at 9pm, shush the children as news is airing and before they know it the teens are in bed chatting with a total stranger until 2am. Most of the teenagers are in boarding school where most of the advice they get is from fellow students. These students are hormone filled and it’s always the hormones talking. The ones who give credible advice are seen as backward and are always made fun of.
Children now know how to use these gadgets and as a parent you should also know how to use them as well. The issue of I am too old and can’t learn this won’t cut it. Your children have learnt and may be using it for things you may not approve. Pornographic material is shared online and your child may click it. They will watch more and will search for content that is inappropriate for them as you sip on green tea. Be present in your child’s life. They might say that you are a boring parent but better a boring parent with a normal well- behaved kid than an easy parent with a child who has a lot of emotional issues because of social media.
Google, find out the tools you can use to make sure your child is on the right side of the internet. Find out what they are doing with their phones. Know their friends and where they go to when they say they have gone for church or study with a friend. Be there is all I ask. Is it too much?