Technology has become a large part of our society; we depend on it to learn, inform, and connect with others daily. Using technology, however, can have negative effects as well.
Most of us probably know a young child who watches YouTube regularly. How often do we stop to watch and closely monitor what is on the screen?
A growing trend with children on YouTube is the fascination of watching other children play with toys. There is a countless supply of these videos, such as “Surprise Eggs” and “Finger Family,” which each have hundreds of thousands of views.
YouTube also added an auto-play feature, which allows similar videos to stream one after the other, continuously. Kids are then exposed far beyond their initial search and are soon watching one video after another.
Parents across the country can attest to the fighting and tantrums thrown when the tablets, phones, or iPads are taken away from the children because they are so entranced by the videos.
Social media is another black hole, typically for older children. Teens can be subjected to cyber bullying, stranger danger, identity theft, phishing, and sexual exploitation.
Apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, Twitter, and YouTube can all be dangerous for teens if used incorrectly. Many teens have several accounts, some of which include “ghost accounts” used to hide online activity from their parents.
Children are being sexualized by photos of celebrities and are taught that appearance is what matters most. Pressure is put on both girls and boys to look a certain way and “likes” and “follows” become addictive for young teen brains. Children can feel they need to post sexy photos and say extreme things just for more attention.
Now that we know some of the problems with technology, let’s talk about ways to avoid them. We need to help and support our children by closely monitoring what they are doing online.
This can include having clear rules for children regarding social media, checking the web browser regularly, activating privacy settings and parental controls on devices, and installing anti-virus hardware on your computer.
Talking openly to your children is the best way to ensure that they know the dangers of the internet and social media. These may be uncomfortable topics, but discussing them is very important for their safety. It is much better to have these conversations before a situation occurs rather than after.
There are many safety apps which help parents monitor and control their children’s online usage. These apps include, but are not limited to, Netnanny, Mammabear, SafeKidsPro, Social Shield, WebWatcher, MyMobileWatchDog, Teensafe, and Phonesheriff. Each app is unique in what it helps control, so find the one that will work best for your family.
This column is written by Jenna Kruse, MSW, school social worker for Youth First, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 55 Master’s level social workers to 76 schools in 10 Indiana counties. Over 38,000 youth and families per year have access to Youth First’s school social work and afterschool programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success.