Protecting your child from the dangers of social media, including suicide

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The risks associated with underage social media presence need to be addressed soon rather than later.

There are about 12 major social media pages in the world currently, but a lot more if one could sit and research. As a parent, it will, therefore, be challenging to monitor what your child is doing on each one. 

The minimum age restrictions for the biggest social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Snapchat is 13 years. So if your 12-year-old is on these platforms without your consent, then they are in essence breaking the rules. 

Youtube’s age restriction is 18, but children younger than that can create an account with the parent’s consent. 

Also read:Three apps to help parents monitor kids social media usage during and after the lockdown

According to section 28 of the Constitution of South Africa children need to be protected from things that “are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development”. It is, therefore, the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the child’s wellbeing is protected at all costs, even on social media. 

Online, underage children are at risk of:

  • Cyberbullying 
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Abduction from giving personal information
  • Sexting 

A 12-year-old is at an age where they are vulnerable and can be manipulated to do anything. Their brains process manipulation differently. According to researcher Seok Hyun Gwon, young children “are impressionable to a range of social and physical environmental factors”. In essence, they can fall for anything. 

According to a child psychologist, Dr. Richard Woolfson “parents need to talk openly and straightforwardly about the risks they may encounter online without scaring them.”

When they start showing interest in signing up for social media accounts, this is the perfect opportunity to have this conversation. Find out why they want to have these accounts, then discuss the potential risks associated. 

You are not being a bad guy for protecting your children from being taken advantage of online or being bullied to the point of suicide. Like the 13-year old Pretoria girl who was bullied on Whatsapp and subsequently took her own life. 

The internet is a beautiful place of learning, but can also be detrimental to your child’s wellbeing if not managed properly. 

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