Children growing up today have a world of digital opportunities just a click away. They are inundated with so much media. A flood of information is accessible to them. Right at their fingertips is a wealth of knowledge and experiences for them to tap into on their smartphones, tablets, computers and more. This is an incredible opportunity for the youth of today. Something no other generation has had this much access to. 93% of teens are online now. 74% of them are “mobile internet users,” who utilize cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices to get online (Pew Research Center). While this connectivity has a host of benefits, it also makes the youth of today uniquely vulnerable.
The core of a person’s online presence today often resides within the context of social media. There are the giants of social media as well as a host of newcomers and smaller platforms, eager for the attention of children. Social media presents a host of opportunities for people and allows children to connect with friends, teachers, relatives, and cultural icons that they never would have been able to otherwise. They can engage the world on a grander scale. The typical teen Facebook user has around 300 friends. Teens with considerably larger networks are more likely to be friends with people they have never met in person.
While convenient, it can be dangerous. Many apps and social media websites can be abused to harm children. Many youth check in with social media daily, sometimes multiple times per day. Predators can utilize social media to find more information about, or even track the locations of children. 65% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain home and/or school information about the victim (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2010). Privacy settings vary from platform to platform and many teens manage privacy well, but some post a great deal of content publicly that is accessible to anyone. Social media also opens the door for cyberbullying and harassment, as well as exposure to material inappropriate for children to view. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that over 104 million child pornography images have been reviewed by the Child Victim Identification Program since 1998. (NCMEC). 70% of kids ages 8 to 18 reported unintentionally stumbling across pornographic images while online. The average age for a child to be exposed to online pornography is just 11 years old. These statistics are frightening to consider and there are many implications for the online safety of our children.
Many parents are already involved in some way with their children online, though not all adults embrace the digital frontier as quickly as their children. Social media allows youth to connect to others, share their creativity, voice their opinions and express themselves. It is a continuously growing trend that is not likely to disappear soon. McKenzie’s Hope will be sharing some information, research, and helpful tips about many of the most popular social media applications our children are engaged with soon. We’ll take a closer look at a variety of platforms and help you learn to understand them and also take a look at some of the potential dangers and other things to look out for.
McKenzie’s Hope wants to begin a conversation with members of our community about social media and our children. We want to foster a community that can embrace the digital life, but also strive to keep our children safe while doing so. Communication is a huge part of these platforms and an integral part of being a parent. How do we stay involved and informed about this growing part of our children’s lives? Start a conversation with your children about social media. How do your children interact with others? What are they sharing? Be mindful of the content your children create and view online. Get social with your kids! Talk to them about the importance of privacy and security as well as the dangers of predators and cyberbullying. Join the conversation with us on our Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear your thoughts and talk with you about this. Do you have any tips or tricks for how to engage your children digitally and keep them safe?