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Making MySpace Your Space Too
We are all aware that monitoring our children’s online usage and interactions is important. You need only read the weekly news to understand why, and there are few who would argue that online activity requires some of the strictest rules of any parenting. Online interactions have changed dramatically. Whilst emails remain a good way to communicate, it is the social sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Xanga which are used by the majority of young people to communicate.
The Benefits of Social Media for Children
Before lambasting these sites as terrible, it is important to recognise what they offer which is beneficial to your children (and to your ability to monitor them):
- These sites connect children in a way which could never have been achieved before. It allows for math worksheets to be discussed and for children to assist each other’s learning.
- They help your children to develop social skills and enable them to demonstrate their creativity in a way that can be appreciated by peers.
- They offer access to a wider range of interests and information than can be easily found elsewhere.
These are some of the good elements of social media websites. There are other positive elements which are specific to each page but there are too many to list. For example, MySpace displays information publicly, so you can easily monitor your child’s online persona. There is, however, a flip side to this – anyone else can see your child’s personal details on MySpace, too.
The Drawbacks of Social Media for Children
Here are some of the bad things about engagement with social websites:
- They can be a huge distraction to children. Children will be easily diverted from their educational resources and extracurricular activities in favour of chatting away with their friends.
- Inappropriate photos, conversations and videos can be very easily exchanged.
- Online communities can be as isolating as the real world if your child does not fit into the right clique.
- Cyber-bullying is rife on social media sites.
There are clearly two sides of the online circuit and it is important to understand this so that you can create a justifiable and balanced approach to the way that your child communicates through this medium. It is worth signing up for a profile on one or more of these sites so that you can gain an understanding of what they entail. The sign-up processes are fairly simple to follow.
Social Media Ground Rules for Protecting Your Children
Signing up for a social media account should not be used as a way to impose yourself on your child’s online persona. By interacting with them online you are likely to make your children more secretive about what they are doing. This is as true online as it would be if you attempted to attend a school friend’s birthday party. Ideally, they will do everything in the open where you can keep an eye out – this should be what you aim for. House rules, such as only allowing the use of these sites in the family room, will help you to monitor their behaviour online. Remember that parenting in the online world should be much the same as moulding behaviour during face-to-face encounters.