The other day my 12 year old came home from school and told me one of his friends had got ‘facebook’ for his 13th birthday. I presume he received other gifts, other than being allowed on facebook for the first time. My son laughed and said ‘this is something you would do mum, except facebook is just for old people’. I presume the ‘old people’ remark was referring to me, his 41 year old mum. And yes the kids HAVE moved on from facebook, and moved to Snapchat, Instagram and who knows what else is out there. You see that’s the thing with kids, they have to be one step infront of their parents. And those steps can be huge, when you are trying to keep up in this every changing media world.
My 9 year old got an iPad mini for her birthday back in January. She mainly uses it to play games, which have no social interaction. However, a few weeks ago she asked if she could go on ‘Oovoo’ and chat to her school friends. I had no idea what Oovoo is, and she explained it was where she could see and talk to her friends. Wow how I secretly wished this was around when I was 9. We had a look at the app together, and she went through the friends that had requested her. They were all in her class, and we discussed the rule that she could only chat to her friends, when either me or her dad were in the same room.
Most of the time they are just chatting and singing together. However, there was one time when a friend was playing an inappropriate song. Now this is the first time I realised you can’t control what someone else says or does over the internet. I only have control over my own children. This is actually quite a scary thought. My 12 year old has an iPod which he uses in his bedroom, mainly playing games. We have increased the security on the devices and also our broadband provider. Doing a search online I found a recent survey which My Voucher Codes had done. The Tech Lounge website also features this survey, and I found the article really interesting. The concerns were as follows
· Online bullying – 58% Extremely Worried
· Accessing adult content – 49% Extremely Worried
· Sharing inappropriate images – 49% Extremely Worried
· Grooming – 48% Concerned
· Access to extremism – 44% Concerned
· Addiction to social media – 57% Concerned
· Effects on Education – 66% Concerned
· Privacy – 55% Concerned
· Effect on long term health – 49% Concerned
· Running up huge bills. – 65% Not at all Worried
I was quite surprised that ‘Effects on education’ and ‘addiction to social media’ are quite high. We limit the time our children have on their devices, otherwise they would be on them ALL the time. This works really well in our house, and the children rarely complain when its time to turn them off.
Going back to my first paragraph, we have always said our son can go on facebook when he turns 13. I know that many of his class from Primary School were on facebook in year 5. This means that they would have been 9 and 10 ! I personally feel that this is way too young, and the minimum age of 13 is there for a reason. I know Secondary Schools do a lot of work about the dangers of the internet, but ultimately the buck stops with us as parents. It looks like my son will not be bothering with facebook when he turns 13, as who wants to hang out with the oldies !
To be honest he doesn’t really bother with chatting to friends over the internet or on his phone. His phone is usually turned off at the bottom of his school bag ! Obviously this could change, and I will make sure I talk to him about possible online bullying from people, and to be wary who he gives his mobile number too. Whilst the internet can be a dark and scary place, its also a wonderful invention that enhances our lives each and every day.