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How to prevent your child from watching unsafe content on social media | – Times of India


Importance of parental guidance in the digital age

As screens increasingly saturate childhood, parents worldwide are navigating uncharted waters. Children today are digital natives, tapped into global connections, endless entertainment, and information at their fingertips 24/7. While this unprecedented access opens up a world of opportunities for our children to explore passions, connect across cultures, and prepare for future-forward careers, the unfiltered nature of the online world poses very real risks too.
From misinformation and manipulative messaging to cyberbullying and predatory behaviour, the digital space confronts impressionable young minds with adult challenges before they may be equipped to handle them. As digital immersion increasingly becomes a staple of childhood, parents worldwide are being challenged to rethink their role. But fret not; the boogieman is not here to stay if we take informed action. Here are some practical strategies to achieve this balance together and prepare our kids to thrive, not just survive, as digital citizens.

Quality over quantity

Firstly, recognize that devices or social media are not inherently harmful. The key is mindful use. Set reasonable limits on screen time. Devices that enable parental control through connected apps are a boon in this respect. Furthermore, it’s vital to encourage the use of educational apps, creative projects, and skill-building games over passive entertainment. By fostering genuine interest in high-quality digital pursuits, children become immersed in productive technology use.

Promote digital literacy

Equipping children with digital literacy is crucial today. Move beyond device usage skills to evaluate online information critically. Teach them to identify credible sources, manipulated content, and confirmation bias. Develop analytic thinking to weigh perspectives objectively. Kids naturally accept things at face value, so empower them to question what they see rather than taking it as absolute truth. Here again, devices that enable parental monitoring of content are immensely helpful for parents in this regard.

Have open conversations

According to Sandeep Kumar, founder and managing director – Baatu Tech, “Create an open channel for children to discuss their online lives without judgement. Frame it as an exchange of curiosity rather than interrogation. Ask about their latest discoveries, confusing encounters, and apps they find interesting. This normalises discussing technology use. They will be more likely to share negative experiences like cyberbullying if conversations are grounded in trust.”

Teach mindful consumption

Guide children to reflect on how online content makes them feel and whether it aligns with their values. This introspection builds self-awareness and helps make mindful choices. Discuss strategies like disengaging from negative spaces, limiting appearance-focused apps, and taking tech breaks to prevent burnout. Support them in understanding social media’s reality distortion effects.

Use controls thoughtfully

Exerting parental authority arbitrarily might create resentment and perhaps the need to rebel. Therefore, it is important to explain to your children why limits are introduced and what behaviours you aim to encourage. Involve children in co-creating device contracts defining usage rules, boundaries, and freedoms. This builds responsibility for managing technology use. Monitor activity, but avoid snooping without consent so children don’t resort to secrecy.

Develop emotional intelligence

Beyond digital skills, strengthen children’s emotional intelligence by identifying feelings, managing anger and anxiety, and cultivating empathy and resilience. This protects their well-being online and offline. Teach them to recognise how certain images or interactions impact their self-esteem. Share strategies to process disturbing content and cope with cyberbullying.

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Lend, don’t just gift devices

When providing devices, lend them while maintaining parental oversight. Don’t give it as an entitlement without rules. Reinforce that it is a privilege they are trusted with, which can be earned or lost. This avoids assumptions of unchecked ownership that can enable overuse. Maintain your right to monitor use and engender accountability.

Guide learning; don’t just monitor behaviour

Look beyond behaviour monitoring to positively impact learning. Observe their interests and guide them towards resources to pursue them meaningfully. If your child enjoys gaming, encourage educational variety and discuss design thinking principles. Show interest in who they follow online and what draws them. This collaborative approach prevents knee-jerk reactions to youth culture.

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