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The twenty-first century has brought about revolutionary changes in the way we communicate. We’ve moved from handwritten letters and snail mail, which took days or even weeks to reach the recipient, to electronic communications, which take only moments for the recipient to receive, read and respond. Social media platforms, chat rooms, virtual screen calls - the technological landscape our children face today - is vastly different to the one we faced ten, twenty or thirty years ago. While we have grown with the technology, our children don’t know a life without it, and they seem to have an affinity for using it that we haven’t yet been able to master. Our kids are growing up in the digital age and we, as parents, need to adapt and be a part of this new way of communicating, no matter how daunting we may find it.
We regularly hear about the dangers our children may face online - how they may be cyberbullied, or groomed, or experience identity theft. But that doesn’t mean that being online is to be avoided. As a parent, the last thing you want for your child is to feel left out socially just because they don’t have access to Facebook or Twitter. Of course there are some precautions that need to be considered when letting your children online but it is important to let them interact with today’s communication technologies. This should be done in a balanced and age-appropriate manner.
There are numerous benefits to your child in having an online or social media presence. They can interact with their peers that are interested in similar activities. They can enhance their digital literacy skills, which is a necessity as technology is the driving force behind most work environments. The online world can also be used to complement a child’s formal learning process by providing apps or games that improve spelling, research interests, maths, for example.
While encouraging and assisting your children to take part in online activities such as social media, it is important to remember the dangers these services may pose if the privacy settings are not used correctly. Social media sites, such as Facebook, have privacy settings that will ensure your content can only be viewed by friends and family. Be sure to investigate these settings for all the social media services your children might be on and set them to the most secure settings to ensure a safe digital environment. Once these settings are activated, there is no reason your children shouldn’t be networking away and building their confident to navigate the world of social media.