Protecting your child from cyberbullying and suicide on social media

There are about 12 major social networking sites in the world currently, but if you do some research you’ll find many more. As a parent, it will, therefore, be challenging to monitor what your child is doing on each one. Numerous social media platforms keep surfacing every other year, and kids have access to download and use these apps.

The latest social media craze is which is an anonymous platform and, therefore, very dangerous. Users can ask questions and solicit pictures and videos anonymously.

Age restrictions

The minimum age restrictions for the biggest social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Snapchat is 13 years. So if your 12-year-old is on these platforms without your consent, then they are in essence breaking the rules. 

Youtube’s age restriction is 18, but children younger than that can create an account with the parent’s consent. 

ALSO SEE: Moms are asking if it’s really safe to post photos of their kids on social media

According to section 28 of the Constitution of South Africa, children need to be protected from things that “are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or place at risk the child’s wellbeing, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development”. It is, therefore, the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the child’s wellbeing is protected at all costs, even on social media. 

Online, underage children are at risk of:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Abduction from giving personal information
  • Sexting

Why these apps have an age restriction of 13

A 12-year-old is at an age where they are vulnerable and can be manipulated to do anything. Their brains process manipulation differently. According to researcher Seok Hyun Gwon, young children “are impressionable to a range of social and physical environmental factors”. In essence, they can fall for anything. This is why children under 13 are not allowed to use social media apps. 

According to child psychologist, Dr. Richard Woolfson “parents need to talk openly and straightforwardly about the risks they may encounter online without scaring them.”

When they start showing interest in signing up for social media accounts, this is the perfect opportunity to have this conversation. Find out why they want to have these accounts, then discuss the potential risks associated. 

You are not being a bad guy for protecting your children from being taken advantage of online or being bullied to the point of suicide. Like the 13-year-old Pretoria girl who was bullied on Whatsapp and subsequently took her own life. More cases like this are surfacing around the world, and cyberbullying and suicide is a big problem amongst these age groups. 

According to the recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, depression and anxiety in American teens have increased since 2011. This is according to Social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt. 

Between 2009 and 2011, the number of girls that are hospitalised due to self-harm has increased: 

  • 62% for girls between 15 to 19-years-old
  • 189% for girls between 10 to 14-years-old

Suicide rates amongst these girls have also increased:

  • 70% for girls between 15 to 19-years-old
  • 151% for girls between 10 to 14-years-old

The internet is a beautiful place of learning, but can also be detrimental to your child’s wellbeing if not managed properly. 

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