About three weeks ago, I was invited to attend an Internet Safety & Awareness forum at my daughter’s school. I thought it was neat that they would put together something like this. As a parent, I would want to know what I can do to protect my kids against the dark side of social media straight from the experts’ mouths. But apparently, many parents don’t share the same sentiments as evident from the lack of attendance. Out of approximately 130 5th grade students, less than ten parents attended. I even learned later that one school they went to only had one parent there.
Let’s face it, social media is awesome! Especially for us immigrants, it is the fastest and most efficient medium to connect with family and friends back home. It is also a great way to meet new people and promote your business. Some even claim that social media helps kids and teens develop important technical and social skills. While these are definitely valid points, it is still important to consider that kids left unsupervised online is a recipe for disaster. Because kids don’t fully understand social boundaries yet, there’s the danger of posting private information that may come back to haunt them later in life. There’s also phishing, falling for scams, downloading malware, identity theft, cyberbullying and cyberstalkers among others. However, the things I’m most worried about are the child predators who will take every opportunity they can get to lure and groom these kids. And then there’s pornography.
The talk was facilitated by two officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, under the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Sex Crimes Section. They showed us statistics and cases they’ve personally handled and experienced. And what I heard that night gave me chills down my spine. Even writing and thinking about it right now is tough. I was tearing up almost the entire time and looking at the other moms in that room, I could tell that they were just as frightened as me. They mentioned that the youngest “suspect” they’ve arrested is a three year old boy. I remember thinking, he’s just a baby for crying out loud! Just a year older than my dear youngest son. How could that have happened? It was all because he was left unattended on his gadget. Unfortunately, like this boy, many kids are already exposed to porn by merely watching YouTube. I was surprised to hear that there are sick YouTube videos disguised as popular cartoons; like Peppa Pig doing inappropriate things to George. Since children are master imitators, they would naturally copy things they see on these shows. There was another case of a young boy, who just started kindergarten and is not able to spell words yet. But he knew how to use Siri. To prove my point, he would look up words like masturbation because he hears his older brothers talking about it, and so he got curious. This kid was also left unsupervised on his iPad.
I hear stories about sexual abuses and sex crimes on children in the news. Of course I get affected but it feels distant if you know what I mean. However, there’s nothing more powerful than hearing them first hand from people who investigate and prosecute these cases on a daily basis. I assure you, they too are frightened and I feel bad that they have to face this sad reality everyday.
So what can we do as parents? Do we wait till something like this happens to our own kids? Or should we be proactive about it? I say we choose the latter. Although, I admit that there’s no way we would be able to protect our kids from all the dangers of the world as I’ve proven many times with my own kids. But I think we can at least try our best to preserve their childhood for as long as we can. Together with my husband and the officers’ recommendations, we came up with a few preventive measures we thought would help keep our kids safe online. It is also important to note that, before we did all these we had a family meeting and we made them understand why we needed to implement these restrictions. However to tell you honestly, they don’t have a choice in this matter. Also, Metro officers confirmed that parents have every right to look through their kids’ devices at any time up until their 18 years old. Their devices are technically ours and we can legally do anything we want to do with them.
- We installed a parental control software called Net Nanny on all their devices. Wherein we can control which sites they visit and apps they can use among other benefits. My favorite part is it has age based restrictions built in, so certain blocks and filters are automatically applied based on your child’s age and maturity level.
- We activated the built in security and parental control features on their devices.
- Right before bedtime, our older kids deposit all their devices in a container that’s kept in our office. My son (16) gets his cellphone in the morning before he leaves for school and both him and daughter (11) claim their laptops in the afternoon for homework. Also my daughter gets her cellphone only when she needs it like on a field trip or a family outing where there’s a chance of her getting lost in the crowd. The 2 year old’s tablet on the other hand, is kept on the kitchen counter and he is trained not to touch it unless it’s offered to him (or at least that’s the goal).
- On weekdays, they are only allowed to use their devices for homework.
- They can only watch YouTube on the TV in the living room for everyone to see.
- Weekends on the other hand, are their free time to play games on their devices and pretty much do anything with their preapproved apps and filtered websites. (Social media apps and websites like FB,IG, Snapchat etc…are not one of them)
- The officers also recommended that we consult our cellphone provider about their cellphone monitoring and filtering services (supposedly free).
To tell you the truth, most of the time I feel unsure whether I’m parenting my kids properly around social media. Especially when we’ve had our own share of mishap in the past. Call me paranoid, strict or crazy for all I care. That wouldn’t change the truth about the horrors of social media and how it can hurt and break families. Ultimately, with Daddy and Mommy’s watchful eyes, ongoing open conversations about online safety, technology and lots of prayers, we hope to create a safer online environment for our kids.
What do you do to keep your kids safe online? Please share your ideas and comment below.
KC & a truckload of hugs and kisses
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32 thoughts on “The Real Horrors of Social Media…and what we can do about it.”
This is a reason I prefer the android tablets to the iPad. There are apps that replace the whole desktop, and then only display apps I deem as safe. Everything else remains hidden unless I put in my access code.
My kids are also using Android for their smartphones and PC for the laptop mainly because their much more affordable than the Apple products. But you raised a good point their Richard. Thank you.
Oh my goodness. That’s crazy! Thanks so much for sharing. My little is 3 3/4 and not quite able to work the computer yet but I do let him watch Toystory and Paw Patrol clips onYoutube sometimes. Eek. THanks for the warning.
I had the same reaction too while I was listening to the Metro officers. I guess all we can really do as parents, is to be always one step ahead of our kids. Thank you for being here, Miranda and I’m more than happy to share this with everyone.
I can just imagine the horror. I’ve had a mom who consulted me about filing a case against her 9 or 10-year old daughter’s male teacher who was just in his late 20’s and whom she caught exchanging lewd and obscene private messages with her daughter. What’s scarier is that her daughter actively participated in the conversation and knew a lot of stuff even considered inappropriate for adults to talk about.
I can just imagine the heartbreak your client felt when she found out about it. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I pray that they’ve somehow settled the issue already.
It can be scary, which is why I always check my children’s phones. You just never know these days.
Oh my goodness. That’s crazy! Thanks so much for sharing.
Yes it’s crazy. Thank you for being here. ☺️
I don’t have children but I know about how easy it is for them to access information that would hurt them. It’s even scarier when you are a parent and you know what your child can be exposed to when surfing online. Your list of parental control solutions is great for keep them safe when they browse the internet.
I agree it’s scary for us parents knowing that our kids are exposed to all these dangers online. I’m not even sure if what we’re doing is enough. But I guess it’s a good start. Thank you for being here. ☺️
Oh, my!! Thanks for sharing this kind of awareness!! I will definitely share this with my friends.
Thank you. ☺️
That’s a crazy story. Thanks for sharing because stories like this need to be publicized more. Social media can a beautiful tool if used properly, but can go extremely bad if misused.
I agree 100 %. We just have to be vigilant. Thank you for being here. ☺️
I love that you collect their devices at nighttime. The parental locks are key too!
I’m not even sure if what we’re doing is enough but I guess it’s better than not doing anything at all. Thank you for being here. ☺️
I’m with you. More parents should be involved in this topic. Our girls have devices and phones, which are removed every night and only one takes hers to school daily. The other doesn’t need it, for now. We do control as much as possible what they do, see and for what it’s used for. A device is a necessity at times and a privilege.
Yes more parents should be aware of the dangers. It all starts at home after all. I’m glad to know you’re on top of it. Keep it up mama!
I have always wondered about this. the meme culture and the youtubing have become really messy and frightful.
Yes I agree.
Social media and social media control is defintely a tough subject for kids these days! My son isn’t quite old enough yet to be going crazy about having to have his tablet, but I know we will get there one day. Limiting how much time a day or week he can be on his iPad is definitelty key for us, and keeping it a routine!
You are lucky to have ample time to prepare for this. I’m glad you’re on top of it. ☺️
It’s challenging because so much of this is new. How to parent with the influx of social media is new territory. Sharing our ideas helps, but I’m certainly not sure I’m doing enough.
I’m not sure either. But doing something is I think better than doing nothing at all. It’s really challenging.
The horror stories are real and it saddens me to hear them. Kids are so rebellious that they know about social media sites before parent hear of them. Having a spy app on their computer is unfortunately the appropriate the think to do.
What’s worse is kids committing these “crimes” are getting younger and younger. It’s a sad reality.
Keeping my kids safe online is definitely a priority. I have parental controls on all our devices as well as my kids laptops. I am not taking any chances with their safety.
It is so crazy how crazy social media can be. Thanks for setting up protection for your kids
Its very alarming when kids get their freedom exploring the web, there are big possibilities that they will see unnecessary things. I agree that good parenting and limiting them from the usage of the internet while still young will protect them from these horrors.
Thanks for sharing and spreading awareness on the horrors of social medias. Keeping kids safe from social media is top priority. Parents or adults must be more active in educating young kids the danger of these unwanted exposures.
Growing up we didn’t really have smart phones or iPads, but my mom would put the computer in the living room to make sure she can keep an eye on us.