Yesterday, I was going through my timeline hoping to laugh at some joke or get inspired given that, it was a Sunday. Instead the first post I saw was of a story by the Standard which ended in an urgent appeal by parents of a teenager urging her to come home. Sheila Kagendo, who had dreams of being a journalist, had allegedly run away from home after her mother confiscated her phone.
Mrs. Lenna Mwaniki had realized that her daughter spends too much time on Whatsapp and instructed her to uninstall her it.However, her daughter downloaded the app again and Ms. Mwaniki was forced to confiscate it. A week later, the student from Utawala academy is yet to be seen after leaving a half-page letter telling her kin not to worry.
Welcome to parenting in the social media age. A teenager running away from home is not news, and neither is her liking for using this tool of interaction.So many teens and kids all over the world are addicted to social media, and their parents do not know about it or are at their wit’s end. These days, kids get acquainted with social media at such an early age. In fact, some are put on media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram moments after they are born.
So widespread is the practice that famous cartoonist have drawn pictures showing moms eager to pose and show their new baby on social media moments after they are born as opposed to resting after hard, painful labor.The tool of communication is also useful for information as the babies grow and first-time mothers can never put it down. Personally, it is where I learned that babies should breastfeed for six months, the best soaps to use, how to make a weaning timetable, the best places to shop and so on.
According to a study by the Pew Research Centre, 79% of parents who use social media agree that they get useful information via their networks. One-in-three (32%) “Strongly agree” that they get useful information. Mothers are just as likely as fathers to “strongly agree” that they find useful information through their social media networks.
So the children grow up seeing mommy perusing the various sites and soon pick on how to get to them, thanks to the icons. The first time you post the picture of your baby and you get the many likes and comments makes you so happy that you feel the need to share with the world how your adorable munchkin is fairing on. And soon the little child is exposed to relatives, friends, colleagues and people you have never met in various poses, clothes, places, positions.
Soon, your glee becomes contagious, and she starts asking how many likes she got. “Did Auntie Cynthia comment?” She would want to know. She soon discovers games, and you soon find educative apps. She gets so used to your gadgets, and you do not mind.Some parents rely on their kids for knowledge on how to operate their apps. Others live vicariously through their kids and push them to the limit just for Facebook glory.
And what about the need to keep up with the Joneses? That is probably what has made some mothers constant visitors to the social media sites just to show that am with it.Given the attention from social media, some kids grow up taking to the media like ducks to water and soon get their accounts. They do this with their gadget or with their parent’s devices.
Opinion is still divided on whether parents should buy their little one’s smartphones, tablets, and iPads. One Vinnylynne Khavai says that she decided to buy her first born a phone because she is always travelling and they do not have a domestic manager. The phone was to help the young lad reach out in case of any emergencies when she and the father are still at work.
Reading from a different script, Ruth Wamaitha thundered a vehement, Never! In an interview with Afromum. “Who will she be using the phone to talk to? The world is a very dangerous place,” she posed.Social media and technology is evolving but quite necessary for daily life. It is normal for any mother to want to protect her child by blatantly refusing to let them get near a phone or laptop. However, as Vinnylyne pointed out sometime it is quite necessary they use phones and sometimes social media.
If you do not want your child on social media, sit them down and explain the reasons among them that there are online bullies, pornography, kidnappers, and pedophiles who might ruin their lives. You should also explain that it is quite addictive and may make them lose concentration for their school work. You should also discuss the consequences if they are found on social media. Given them an age when you will finally allow them to join social media.
If you have no problem with them being on social media here is how you can monitor them,
- Ensure you are on their pages on the sites to monitor who they interact with every day. If they won’t add you, there is no harm using another account now is there?
- Have open communication with them
- Ensure that the computer is in a public place like the living room and not in their bedrooms.
- Always check the browsing history on their computers and phones.
- Ask for their passwords but be careful some may see this as an invasion of their privacy.
- Be alert on any new slang or short forms of words
Mothers who post their children online should avoid
- Posting where they live, house and block number, etc.
- Do not post them in school clothes, their school or their school bus.
- Avoid using their names online because someone may use that to kidnap them
- If possible, you can have two accounts, one for trusted family and friends while the other can have everyone else.
- Avoid posting your personal details as well
- If you are about to go on holiday or any other place avoid mentioning the names or even saying you are leaving at all.
- Establish social media boundaries of what they can and cannot do online.
- Keep abreast about online safety guidelines as they evolve.