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Social media vs. child safety: parenting in 2017

Without a doubt, we feel an incredible burden to keep our kids safe. We make sure the car seat is installed correctly even before our little one is born. We are oh-so-careful on that first car ride home from the hospital. We worry if the baby is overheated, overfed, or over-stimulated. 

As a society, we have made an industry out of baby proofing, buying outlet covers and toilet covers and knob covers. We slather on sunscreen to prevent burns, strap on bike helmets to prevent head injuries, and spend hours talking to our kids about stranger danger.

Yet as careful as we are, we often unknowingly expose our children to the world in ways we never intend. From the minute we announce their arrival into the world, we document every milestone, every birthday, every lost tooth, and first day online. Sometimes without even realizing it, we proclaim where they are, what they think and say, how they misbehave, and whom they are with. We think we are capturing and sharing the innocence of childhood, and truly we are.

But do you ever stop to think that we may be putting our children in harm’s way with a simple click of a mouse or post? We document their whereabouts at all times: where they go to school, who their friends are, where they are vacationing, and even where they live. And while we don’t want to live our lives in paranoia, looking over our shoulders at every turn, there are people out there who do not have the best intentions in mind when it comes to children. On social media, we just don’t know who will see these pictures and information.

My ten-year-old son recently attended a school presentation on Internet safety, where the speaker stressed “Public and Permanent.” He gave a convincing example of an Internet predator who was eventually arrested after trying to get personal information from children. My son came home and informed my husband that he needs to ask permission before he posts any pictures of him on Facebook. And he’s right! At a certain age, kids become very aware of their presence in this world. Why not teach them about their Internet presence as well? At some point we become less responsible for their physical safety, but we can teach them to keep themselves safe when it comes to social media.

I have begun to use other ways to share my children’s pictures with friends and family. I don’t need to have every casual acquaintance see my sons opening presents in their PJs on Christmas morning. Sure, I will post an occasional picture of my kids on social media, but they are few and far between and with no great details. Because the greatest privilege and responsibility of being a parent is to keep my children safe, no matter how old they are.

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