Long, long ago (future stories would go) children had little diaries with locks to secretly record their emotional out pour, dreams and aspirations. Those precious diaries were guarded fiercely and only a select few would have the privilege of getting a look at their writing. The world, in general, remained unaware of the child’s confidences.
But then there came the social media and the little diaries soon became a thing of the past.
Today, children globally have found a very acceptable and appealing platform to express, communicate, connect, share and broadcast. Thanks to the net and emergence of social media, they now can connect with people all across the world, get access to different views and air their own.
Social media has many advantages that suit the temperament of the children of the 2-minutes super-fast cyber age. They want to connect, and connect fast. They want to speak to many people at once and share things as they happen. They want their friends to know their emotions, empathize with them and offer advice, or approval, if needed. They want to know global opinion on subjects of their choice and discuss/debate these on a public forum. They want to gain confidence by making friends online. They want to share their ideas, creativity and angst. Social media fulfills all these needs perfectly.
The latest McAfee Tweens, Teens & Technology Report 2014 for India demonstrates the strong liking that tweens (8-12) and teens (13-17) have for this platform. 70% of online youth in India spend more than 5 hours on the internet in a normal week. Of these, 41% access the net predominantly on the desktop, 36% on the laptops and 27% use smartphones.
And if one reviews the different networking platforms they use, one will be left in no doubt as to the popularity of this medium among kids. Facebook is passé, children are connecting on newer platforms like YouTube, WhatsApp, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tinder, and Vine. What is noteworthy is that many tweens are on these platforms, despite the minimum age to register to these social networking sites being 13.
With kids being online with so much ease, connecting with anything that’s new, technical and trendy that they can well be called netizens. Not surprisingly, they have come to trust the virtual world more than the real world. After all, they can get all their queries answered; their need for friendship and peer approval met; and their spirit of adventure satiated. 53% of the tween/teens surveyed have met someone in person that they first met online, 52% chatted with strangers during online gaming and 42% with celebs who were live tweeting. This is besides the normal chatting with friends and acquaintances.
It is quite obvious therefore that quite a few kids will unwittingly or deliberately say more than they ought to, online. The current statistics supports this. Though 80% of those surveyed were aware that their online activity can affect their identity, yet 90% have posted content that have revealed their personal info or other risky data.
Children today are a curious mix of knowledge and naiveté. On one hand, they are very aware of the risks involved with careless use of the internet and on the other, they do not take measures to protect their self and their personal info, thus putting themselves at risk.
And this is where the parents come in. they are already supervising children in the real world and ensuring their safety and security. They now need to extend this to the virtual world as well.
Which means, parents need to:
(a) Understand and use technology like smartphones and laptops
(b) Be aware of the risks involved with e-mails, messaging apps and chat rooms
(c) Play online games with children to understand the environment from where they are picking up vocabulary, attitude, and ideas
(d) Sign up on social media to get a firsthand experience of the platform as well as keep an eye on kids active there, and
(e) Talk to children about how to stay safe when they go online or use social media
But the very first thing to do when they bring any internet-enabled gadget home is to secure it to keep it free from malware, activate parental controls and supervise kids online. The best solution for this is to install a branded, comprehensive security software that offers parental controls. Some reputed products for your computers, tabs and laptops are McAfee Live Safe. For the security of your smartphones, download the FREE, award-winning McAfee Mobile Security today!
More on the findings later. Till then – Stop, Think & Connect.
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