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Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

Social media protection for your child

Social media protection for your child

It is something we all know we must do. But unfortunately, it is something most of us don’t spend any time doing. That is, thinking and implementing social media protection for your child.

Most people who are on top of social media don’t have a clue about digital literacy. Are you one of them?

Do you check your child’s phone? If you don’t, maybe you should rethink it very soon as well as seriously. As an educational psychologist in private practice with experience with children, teenagers and families over the past 30 years, I’ve met about ten families where parents are digitally informed. When I ask parents whether they check their child’s phone, their standard answer is “My child will never allow that!” Most parents whom I see in consultation are totally knocked off their feet and their world falls apart when they tell me about their reliable, trustworthy, loyal, and well mannered child whom they trusted with their hearts, who has sent naked photo’s of him / herself to men and boys, or is involved with cyber bullying (whether a victim or the bully self), had sex with more than one partner, use inappropriate apps, are part of groups where their loving child used the most disgusted language and visits pornography websites.

Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

One problem parents experience is that photo’s and video clips which were sent when using certain apps, disappear immediately after the receiver watched it. What teenagers and young adults aren’t aware of is that the owner of the app could store these images as if it is their own. Therefore the pictures are still available, irrespective whether the user erased it. Some people also take instant screen shots when receiving it – especially naked and obscure photo’s as they are out to manipulate friends with it in order to get what they want.

Another important aspect of which most parents aren’t aware of is how a teenager’s brain develops and works. The brain develops from the back to the front, and the outside layer which is the cortex, which comprises more than 40% of the brain, develops last. This frontal cortex is where insight, reasoning, planning, impulsivity, decision making, and the regulation of emotions take place and it is developing until a person is 20 – 30 years old (according to Frances Jensen, neuro scientist, in The teenage brain). Teenager’s brains are powerful and therefore there’s an urge to find and explore new, sensational learning areas, but a teenager’s brain hasn’t been fully developed yet. Therefore even the most responsible teenager can make a bad judgement call. Peer pressure, hormones, puberty and the quick development and powerful stage in which a teenager’s brain is, as well as normal human curiousness are good examples of why you can never give your child a phone and not check it at least every second week.

What should I as a parent of a teenager do?

Research indicates that parents are illiterate about digital devices. Common sense Media is an excellent, reliable tool where age appropriate apps on movies, games as well as books are shown. The starting point is however to re-evaluate your own values and norms on social media. Teenagers and younger children, even preschoolers, often tell me that their parents are on their phones and computers for most of the evening and weekends – even when the family is sitting together at the dining table, go for a walk, drink some tea / coffee together or watch a television program.

Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

Social media protection for your child: The facts

A few facts indicated by research on being hooked to social media are the following:

Before you buy your child a phone (or if you think that it’s too late – you can start again) your child should know the following:

  • Having a phone is a privilege and not a personal right.
  • Technology is a gift and that it should be wisely used, but you as parent should teach and educate your child on that.
  • You as parent pay for the phone as well as the bill / airtime and therefore you have the right to know what’s going on on your child’s phone.
  • You are the parent and you are responsible for your child’s upbringing which implies discipline with regards to using his / her phone, what applications he / she is allowed to use, what parental control apps are being activated and more.
  • Both adults and children can get addicted to a phone easily, the same as to alcohol or drugs.
  • There will be strict rules which will include all the family members with regards to when and for how long phones are allowed to be used.
  • You will have access by means of his / her codes to all the info on the phone.
  • It’s non-negotiable that you will be friends with your child on Facebook, Instagram and other social media and applications he / she is using.
  • Your child can be found guilty of a criminal offence if he / she sends a naked or obscure photo to any person, before the age of 18 years.

Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

  • Prospective schools, colleges, universities, as well as managers where your child might apply for a job in future will consider your child with his social media in mind. Before most companies appoint a person in a job, they do visit a person’s social media.
  • Once a social media post (messages, photos, videos,) is sent out, you can’t take it back. It’s like putting toothpaste on your toothbrush. If the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t put it back. Teenagers think they can erase it, but a typical social media app rule is that user info remains their (the app’s) property, even if it is removed. All info is stored in their cloud and you can’t remove it once it’s out there.
  • Social media is one platform where “phishing” and other obscure people operate very easily, as they hide behind their false identity and smooth talking. They do research on what girls’ and boys’ of different ages’ emotional needs are, what they are going through with regards to peer pressure, having insecurities and the experiencing of feelings of they don’t belong and are the odd one out. These scammers are very professional in their game of making friends and giving you a lot of thumbs ups on socoal media. They also can be found on gaming websites and they are fun to have as friends. Their aim is to get power over you, to make you feel that they are your best friends, who totally understand you.
  • Teenagers thrive on likes by peers and friends. There’s peer pressure and competition on how many friends you have and how many likes you get for a post. Too many times teenagers invite and accept friends because they think they know the person or heard his name before. This is however no connection if you don’t really know the person well.
  • On Emma’s Sadleir’s, a leading lawyer in South Africa on social media’s website, your child should “check” whether the following six P’s can be ticked off before he /she posts anything. It means that your child will feel totally comfortable when his post will be seen by: the POLICE, a PEDOPHILE, his / her PARENTS, a PHISHER, the PRINCIPAL or a PROSPECTIVE PERSON for whom he might work in future.

Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

Social media protection for your child: Know this!

Before you buy your child a phone (or if you think that it’s too late, you can start again) YOU should know the following:

  • Research indicates that the average age in South Africa of being exposed to pornography is 9 years of age.
  • Pornography is available for free to any person, no matter what age, 24 hours a day.
  • Pornography is found even among the best educated children with academic distinctions, who are leaders in schools and who have involved parents. The reason for this that a teenager’s frontal part of his brain, which is the cortex, isn’t fully developed yet. His reasoning, rational, realistic choices, as well as being impulsive or not, i.e. his whole “control system” therefore is still developing, and could do so until the age between 20 – 30 years.
  • Every child, yours’ as well, has a natural and normal curiousness to discover and explore things. It is therefore your responsibility to take all the precautions that you can to protect your child. It implies that you should also do your homework on digital literacy.

Social media protection for your child: IMPORTANT READING MATERIAL FOR PARENTS

If there’s only one website you need to read regarding social media’s pros and cons, it’s the lawyer Emma Sadleir’s. She is one of the leading social media experts in South Africa. Click here: thedigitallawco.com

On Emma’s website you will find:

  • A link to obtain information about social media apps, like Snapchat, Messenger, Instagram, Tinder and more. Read through it and see what is good as well as dangerous with regards to it.
  • A link to the Common Sense Media website which is an excellent tool to recommend age appropriate shows, movies, games, apps and books for different age groups.
  • Excellent, easy to read, articles on social media for all age groups.
  • A description of filtering software, like Our Pact, K9, Net Nanny and their pro’s and con’s so that you can decide which one will be fit for you. There is also info about ways in which your child may try to side-step the software and how you will know when it happens.

You can order Emma’s book “Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A teenager’s online survival guide” here.

Social media protection for your child Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Pretoria Midstream

Social media protection for your child: Please read and share this

Dear Parent: Prevention is better than cure. With Emma Sadleir’s website as well as this call from me as an educational psychologist, you don’t have any excuse any more of how to become informed and educated on the appropriate social media for your child. Remember, social media protection for your child starts with you.

Talking about social media, please feel free to connect with me via social media, as I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


References used in this article:

The Digital Law Company – Emma Sadleir – www.thedigitallawco.com

TED talk – Why we should rethink our relationship with the smartphone – Lior Frenkel – May 2014

TED talk – What you need to know about internet addiction – Dr. Kimberley Young

Sarie tydskrif – In die kop van jou tiener – Maart 2020


Photo credits:
Photo by Merakist on Unsplash (Social Media Featured image)
Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash (Social Media icons)
Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash (Boy with phone)
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash (Snapchat logo)
Photo by Stem List on Unsplash (Playing games)
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash (Teenager with phone)

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