Social Networking

From the very beginning, there has always been a peculiar attraction to networking with others through the internet.  Initially this was the sole purpose of the internet, a place where academics could exchanging ideas and information via a digital medium. Once the internet moved from the ivory towers into the hands of the unwashed masses, the networking aspect of the internet began to bloom and grow into the massive social networking medium it is today.

Today, social networking sites are a ubiquitous part of the internet and command the attention of millions of people the world over. Sites such as Facebook have become central to the way the wired world interact and communicate with family and friends. In the hands of most adults, Facebook is a fantastic tool with which to communicate with others  but unfortunately Facebook can also be a conduit for personal attacks and irreversible social errors that teens seem to be especially vulnerable.

In response to the abuse of social media amongst young people, schools have started to teach kids how to protect their online identity because of the long term damage kids can do to themselves socially, educationally and professionally . When I teach this unit in my class, I am constantly shocked at what kids already carelessly posted at the age of 16, with their name all over it. What is most disconcerting is what has been put online by others without their approval and there is no way to get it removed from the net. Kids have “virtually” destroyed their public image by placing pictures, blog posts and comments without any thought about the implications.

The other danger is the issue of cyber bullying via social networking sites. If the issue has not come up in your own local media, all you need to do is Google up the key words “social networks bullying” and you will get at least 50 news items about instances of bullying online and some with a deadly end. Certainly death by social media is not rampant but there are a lot of young people who are not feeling great about themselves as a result of the abuse the receive through a social networking site and it all revolves around the simple innocent act of creating an access point to your life online.

So what is an old school parent to do? It is almost impossible to keep the internet out of your child’s life and to monitor any online activity could potentially be a full time task. Although it is not easy or full proof, as far as Social Networks go there are a couple simple things you can do to help mitigate a potentially disastrous online experience for your child.

  • Set up the Social Networking account with your child
    • Go over security settings and make them tight
    • Make sure that they understand that what they put online can be accessed by any creeper in the world so they have to be careful.
    • Encourage them not to go about befriending every online urchin that comes along. Be discriminating!
  • If your kid is going to join a social network, their first friend is going to be you! This accomplishes a few things.
    • You will be able to keep tabs on your child’s online activities. (Don’t creep just keep your eyes out for red flags)
    • Your child will be a bit more discriminating about what they post online.
    • Their online friends will be a little more careful about that they say and post if they know you are lurking.
    • Your child will be less likely to be abused or bullied if you are on their friend list.
    • You will be able to see just how much time your child is spending online.
  • Don’t let your child join a Social Network any earlier than absolutely necessary. I would prefer to keep my kids off until their are 16… We shall see how that goes.
    • The second your child joins a social network, others have an access point to your child’s life.
    • If your child is not accessible to others online, they will be less likely to get caught up in destructive online social politics.
    • The longer you make your child wait the more they will learn about the negatives of online social networks by observing the grief their classmates get into online. I have known kids who’s parents made them wait until 16 before they could join a social network and they chose not to because of the misery their friends had gone through.

Please understand that I believe that social networks are great. I have reconnected with family and friends who I had not spoken to in years via Facebook. I have an absolute hoot exchanging pictures and reminiscing with the people I care about. Unfortunately for  for kids Social Networks can be a cesspool of social dysfunction and can damage a young persons reputation, self worth and ultimately their future.

Next: Social Networks of Note

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!