“Am I fat?”

“I am so depressed. Please help! I have been scoring less, my parents don’t understand me… my brilliant siblings treat me with disdain… my girlfriend has broken up with me….”

“Thanks! That’s why I feel a connect with you- you really get me (no one else does!) ….”

“I am closing my Facebook account for a while. I have fallen but I promise you I will rise again, like the Phoenix and will proudly stand before you once again. For now, I am going away. Please don’t try to contact me.”

“I hate you ********!”

All the above statements are variations of real ones posted on different social media platforms by adolescents. Do spare a few moments thinking about the posts- I spent days. What are your thoughts on these? How do you feel about getting a direct look into the hearts of these innocent and confused children?

It is both saddening and worrying that kids are turning to the Internet to find solutions to their problems. But what propels them to trust strangers?

Why do adolescents overshare online?

  • Embarrassing topics: The would-be adults have many doubts about adult life that they feel shy or scared to discuss with their parents
  • Emotional outbursts: Adolescence is a time for emotional upheavals and the kids find social media the best place to voice their thoughts
  • False sense of privacy: As they are not connecting one-to-one in real life, children feel more comfortable discussing and sharing personal matters with online friends
  • No fear of recrimination: This is one reason why they may not open up to adults at home
  • Peer pressure: If most of their friends are venting on social media, your kids are likely to follow suit

Help! I am losing it!

Rule No. 1 for parents- don’t get worked up. You are not alone. Most parents go through this phase. Here are some tips to help you bond better with your tweens and teens.

  • Be patient. You are the parent- always keep that in mind and don’t lose your cool. It will help you to mark your own space and earn you your child’s trust and respect
  • Be in touch with their online lives. Be proactive and stay updated on the latest in the social media world so that you can interact in them in the same wavelength
  • Monitor screentime and keep them engaged: If your child is withdrawn in real life but spends a lot of time online, you need to know why. Set internet usage limit. Remember, boredom and low self-confidence can lead a child to look for friends online, so ensure they are productively engaged offline.
  • Help them to know their personal boundaries. They need to know and respect the limits you set on sharing
  • LISTEN and listen well and only then offer your suggestions
  • Keep communication channels open. Do not let a wall build up between you
  • Be in touch with child’s friends and ensure your child has plenty of good time with them.

Tips to share with kids:

  1. Think before you lay bare your personal life online: Your blog or page isn’t your diary, for it’s not private. How would you feel if in a few years your seniors, professors or employers read this?
  2. Your online friends are strangers: Think. Do you want to share your deepest concerns or most private details with them? What if they out them? Can you handle the consequences?
  3. Share with real friends instead: Your online friends may not have any sense of loyalty towards you. Better to have one or two dependable real life ones, who you know well.
  4. Keep real identity private and maximize account security for all accounts: This is very important for your online safety. Secure your device with licensed security software and use two-factor authentication to secure accounts.
  5. Do not share passwords with anyone: Some things in life are best kept confined to self- including your passwords. Do not give remote access to your screen to online friends either.

Your parents are always there for you

This is what you need to impress upon your tweens and teens: Even though you may feel we do not understand, we do, for we were of your age once. We understand what you are going through. We may set rules that seem tough or discipline you when needed but that doesn’t mean we do not love you. We do what we think is best for you. And we are always there for you.

Before signing off, let me remind you of our cybersafety mantra that you need to repeat often at home: STOP. THINK. SHARE.

Happy parenting!

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