Children are growing increasingly net savvy. But that has its dangers. As parents, we need to be aware of the rules governing social media to keep our children safe online.
By Dr Debarati Halder
Most of us have our Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers right in our own homes – our children. But how many of us know that social media has certain guidelines for children below 13 and for teenagers? Many of us may also not be aware of the fact that the amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection for Children) Act, 2000 (amended in 2015), has prescribed separate treatment of teenagers above 16 years of age for heinous and serious offences including offences done on the Internet. As parents, we often thoughtlessly pass on our communication devices and even social media profiles to our children for accessing the Internet. But that is not always safe.
I have heard many people say there is no minimum age for opening accounts with social media like Facebook. That is not true. Websites that provide interactive communication services, including data contribution services, generally have their own policies relating to the minimum age for opening accounts and also for viewing certain content. Generally, Facebook does not allow individuals to open accounts if they are under 13. Other websites like Instagram or Twitter also do not allow users under 13 ‘on board’. However, we do see young children as young as six or seven years of age operating social media accounts, uploading content and sharing content with others, including strangers. So, how do these children appear on social websites with their own profiles? Here are the answers I have discovered as a cyber victim counsellor and researcher:
As these answers show, there are two groups of children on social media: (1) children with parental consent and (2) those who always manage to escape parents’ monitoring. In the first case, it becomes the parents’ duty to guide the children to use social media in a positive way. Such duties include:
There are also some other precautions that you, as parents, should follow:
With these tips, you can definitely expect a young cyber aware generation to evolve with their own rational mechanism to provide a safe cyber space for everyone, including adults.
Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org). She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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