A social media expert has warned parents about the dangers of social media, including what they post about their children online, and how to ensure the kids stay safe while using social media.
Thousands of SA pupils entered their school classrooms for the first time in 2020 yesterday, a day marked by many smiles, photographs and memories.
Social media law expert Emma Sadlier took to Twitter to warn against naive posts during the “back to school” buzz.
Sadlier suggested, when taking photographs, “turn off geolocation, blur the school badge or other identifying school info, avoid photos with the school name, turn on privacy settings, if your child is old enough, ask permission to post and avoid photos of other children without permission”.
She also pointed out that, while children have more access to cellphones these days, bringing benefits that parents cannot resist, they could also have the power to ruin a child’s future.
She said children should only be given cellphones at the age of 13 and before any child was given a phone, the parents need to educate themselves about social media, internet accessibility and how to protect their children.
Children now have easy access to pornography and it was no longer a question of “if”, but “when” they would come across sexualised content, she said.
“Sexting and cyberbullying are the biggest issues… Sexting has been normalised. Children from as young as nine are [persuaded] to send naked photos of themselves. It is a scary phenomenon.
“If children are using social media, parents need to know what platforms they are on and make use of [restrictions] in place, particularly privacy and children settings,” she said.
She quoted tragic outcomes, including a 15-year-old being persuaded on WhatsApp to commit suicide after sharing intentions to do so.
“Once a photograph is sent and goes viral, the harm cannot be undone, it will stay [online] forever. There are reputational, disciplinary and legal consequences for [irresponsible] social media usage.
“That is why prevention is important and we can only do so with education. A child should not be given a phone without being taught about how to stay safe.”