Pre-teen is the stage of life when a child is slowly recognizing capacities & teenage is where they feel they have discovered themselves completely.
The recent case of Blue Whale suicide in Chembur, Mumbai came as a shock to many. A 13-year-old ended his life, not because he was depressed, but because he wanted to complete the Blue Whale Challenge. The creator of this insane challenge is a 22-year-old individual who is now serving a jail term for inciting teens to take their lives.
This incident has spread panic amongst parents of pre-teens and teens. Most have already made the mistake of introducing social media to their children, without understanding it themselves. Still, others wear the garb of being ‘liberal’ parents who don’t ‘interfere’ in their child’s life.
Our urbane lives are dotted with ‘busy lifestyles’ with kids being handed over a mobile phone or tablet to keep them ‘busy’ or fulfil demand due to peer pressure for gadgets. Parents struggle to strike a balance between making themselves seem ‘cool parents’ and at the same time disciplining the kids.
Here are 9 ways you can save your child’s life while they are interacting on social media:
- Calm down. Don’t panic. Breathe.
The situation is as bad or as good as you interpret it to be. First, have faith in yourself and your upbringing. Not everything on the internet or social media is dangerous. If used responsibly, it can actually help gain knowledge. The challenge, however, is to ensure your child uses it responsibly.
- Keep abreast of what is happening on the social media
This one is tricky and may be looked upon as cheating. But its okay if you are doing it for your child’s safety. Create a Gmail id where you put your age as 14-15 years. Create a Facebook & Instagram profile using the same account. Sign in to YouTube using the same email id. As per your defined age and interests, these platforms will put out suggestions on your timeline, you will be able to see what an average 14-15-year-old is exposed to. Remaining informed is a good thing.
- Sync your child’s phone with your own Gmail account
This way, the chat back-up, phone history, and images come to your Google drive. This can be termed as ‘intrusion of privacy’ however, till your child reaches an age where he/she can understand the difference between right and wrong, you need to do this. If you find anything that is objectionable, calmly and firmly open a conversation with your child.
- Understand that there are other social media evils you need to be mindful of
Blue Whale Dare is only one of the many dangerous challenges on social media. However, apart from this, there are other burning issues like trolling, cyberbullying, sharing of porn, sexting etc. Your child could be a victim of any of these. Be mindful and keep a check. If your communication lines are clear with your kid, things will be easier to manage.
- Don’t speak instead COMMUNICATE with your child
Check whether you are spending enough quality time with your child. Have you been able to inculcate a trust-based relationship with your child? Do you communicate with each other effectively? If not, then that should be your priority.
- Boost your child’s self-esteem
It is easy to judge your child based on school results or extra-curricular performance. No one likes to be judged. Especially by the people, one loves the most. Challenges like Blue Whale Dare succeed because deep within, a child feels rejected and lonely. The need to impress and gain praise is the highest amongst pre-teens. A child who feels confident and secure won’t fall prey to dangerous or silly ploys.
- Create an environment where your child shares passwords with you
Share your day with your children, tell them about the highs and lows you experienced. Enter their life just as a friend would, discuss things and create an environment where sharing is encouraged. Have a concept of ‘home secret’ where whatever you discuss, remains within the safety of the home. Share passwords and other information with them, in return, take their passwords. Keep an eye, but don’t go overboard in getting intrusive. Maintain balance.
- Invest in a good anti-virus for all your gadgets
This will keep hacking attempts, malware and spyware attempts at bay. You can choose to opt for free trials of anti-virus like AVG, Kaspersky, McAfee etc. The number of malware these can block will astonish you. It will force you to invest in a paid version that comes at a nominal yearly cost.
- Create mutually acceptable rules. Stick to them.
Lead by example. Have rules for internet time. Stay away from the phone and gadgets after 8 pm. Fix a time for dinner and discuss your day during the meal. These are normal rules. However, have rules for posting, befriending and interaction on social media as well. If you are posting pictures with your friends and checking in to places, you cannot stop your child from doing so. Rules need to be the same at all times. Introduce the concept of ‘delayed check-in’ – if they simply have to check into a place, they can do so on the next day, this way, stalkers won’t have an idea of the whereabouts. Learn and share about privacy settings on social media and keep stalkers at bay.
In conclusion: The fact that social media can be a dangerous place to be is true, however, it is also true that if used correctly, it can prove to be a good platform to learn and share knowledge. Keeping your children away from dangers should be your priority, however, keeping open channels of communication is more important.
Here are a few more posts on Parenting that I have written:
- Make Christmas Goodies with your child says TANVI SRIVASTAVA SETHI
- 15 Parenting Tips for 2017 by Basantika Bagree Sharma, ounder-KIDUCATE
- What was Aradhana Samdariya’s mother thinking?
- How to prepare your child for puberty?
- How did we train my elder son to receive his sibling?