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Social Media and my child

Social Media and my child

My daughter doesn’t have a Facebook account. She isn’t aware of how Twitter works and she knows that Whatsapp exists but only knows that we can send and receive messages and photographs via this medium.

Of course, she is only 10. She turned 10 just last week, as a matter of fact and it was a matter of great joy and pride to see the baby I held in my arms now all grown up as a young lady making her way into the world of double digits.

People have asked me in the past how much time she’s spent with gadgets and it’s a matter of personal pride that I’ve been able to say with confidence that it’s been hardly more than 2 hours in a week.

Social media and my child, Shailaja, Doting Mom

You’d think that’s impossible given that we’re surrounded by gadgets today. In a household that has 3 family members there are at least 6 digital devices at any given time. But, it’s honestly just been a matter of choice where we were concerned.

Social media, in my opinion, has two major influences on children today: one being the amount they themselves spend online and the other being the amount they are projected online via their parents’ updates and photographs.

Children and gadgets

Friends of mine have wondered how I’ve limited the use of gadgets for Gy. The answer is pretty simple: I say ‘No’. I tell her that there are so many other things she can do: read, quill, play outdoors, chat with friends in person, go for a Nature walk, ride a bike, use a skateboard, clean up her room, organise a shelf in her wardrobe, paint, sketch, draw – you get the idea.

Does this mean no gadgets at all? Not necessarily. The school has also recently incorporated some gadget use but it’s all educational so I set aside time for her each week to spend on learning apps as well as some sketching apps. Games? A few here and there are fine but I am a stickler for time and definitely do not allow more than 20-30 minutes at a stretch and just once during the week.

To her credit, she’s been very conscious herself and switches off gadgets when I say so.

I’ve heard parents say that it’s impossible to keep kids occupied and they especially find it challenging when they go outdoors for a meal or an evening out with friends. As much as it may kill you to hear this, let them get bored. Boredom is good for kids as it helps them unwind and also process the idea of doing nothing. Too much stimulation of the brain is also not ideal, as you’d have noticed.

Gy received a Wi-Fi device this birthday from us which does not have a SIM card. She accesses Skype which we use to chat with her dad who’s away during the week and a couple of learning apps which help with her academics. That’s about it.

Read: Is your kid smart enough for a smartphone?

Children and being on social media

Child, Social Media, Picture, Shailaja, Doting Mom

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to restrict myself to parental roles and assume that your kids are below the age of consent. Older kids and social media behaviour will have to make for a separate post.

I’ve been a vocal advocate of cyber security and cyber safety when it comes to information being posted online about children. Cyber bullying is a real threat and most of us brush it off with the notion,’That couldn’t happen to me. I’m too careful.’

There’s a reason I use Gy when I refer to my daughter. It’s her identity online and one that I don’t want to mess around with, frankly. As she grows up her full name with her credentials will have to lead back to her and what she has done, not what I’ve done for her. 

I think I may have offended a  few people recently when I gently messaged them to say that they use ‘Gy’ when referring to my daughter on Facebook, even if we are good friends offline. But I don’t mean to upset anyone; I merely request that you protect her privacy. Not all my friends on my Facebook list are people I have necessarily met in person and it pays to be wary.

I’ve also spoken about the need for better privacy controls and settings when it comes to sharing pictures of your kids online. I get that you’re keen to share your joy with the world, believe me. But these are kids we’re talking about.

If you must share pictures of your kids, do it with caution:

  1. Do not geo-tag photos of them or add any identifying marks such as the names of the schools/ places they visit.
  2. Try not to take photos which show their face completely or at least ensure that these are only shared with very close friends and family that you can trust.
  3. Use tastefully taken photos that you can use online without compromising on their identity. 
  4. Do not use pictures of your kids in your social media profile photos or cover pictures. These are always public.
  5.  If they are old enough, ask them before posting their pictures online. Trust me, it’s never too early to start asking.

As parents and as bloggers, a lot of us have a responsibility towards two sets of people: our kids and our readers. How do we tread the line of propriety without over-stepping the bounds of embarrassment and/or security?

We take precautions and we exercise our judgement as to what works for our family. I realise that will vary significantly with each parent and that’s fine. Just keep in mind that your child will grow up and will see themselves online in some form or another a few years from now. Putting yourself in their shoes each time you post an update or a picture today will go a long way towards striking that balance effectively.

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Social media, cyber bullying and our kids: Are you aware enough?

Social media, cyber bullying and our kids: Are you aware enough?

I took a long time to write this post.

Every single time my fingers hovered over the keys, my mind would draw them back and I would think once again of the fate of Breck Bednar. The night that I read the article, I couldn’t sleep. My heart would twist and my stomach would churn when I pictured the victim and the helplessness of the mother who saw what was happening, did everything in her power to stop it and still couldn’t save her child from an online predator. Cyber bullying is real and it’s happening more often than we care to admit.

It’s ridiculous the way we have access to everything today at the swipe of a finger. I say ridiculous because although it’s a life-saving concept for someone who works from home, it keeps me ever mindful of the many dangers that abound in this world today, especially when I think of what my daughter or any child can be exposed to at the click of a button.

As I see it, there are two issues I have to face as a parent here: Addiction to social media and cyber bullying that can come as a result of it. Gy is a quiet child and was recently the victim of some bullying at school. Now as a parent, this made my blood boil but I refrained from interfering in the situation, hoping she would learn to stand up for herself. To her credit, she did and I am glad that she is learning that life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses.

Social media is addictive, no question about it. Grown adults and bloggers are drawn into its seductive coil so it’s natural that children are likely to be even easier bait.

What’s even worse is the fact that cyber bullying can demoralise the best of us, when we are attacked either directly or otherwise through vengeful posts and snide comments. While an adult can read up on positive reinforcement and learn to brush these things off, children aren’t that emotionally mature. They need guidance, counsel and a whole lot of support when they face cyber bullying or any sort of action that causes them to question their self-worth.

Where do we begin though? Perhaps these can help you.

Social Media Cyberbullying: Here are 3 ways to keep your kids safe online. Read now and stay updated on what matters. #Parenting #Kids #CyberSafety #Tips

1. Limiting gadgets for children under the age of 13:

I know of kids who use their parents’ phones and their Whatsapp accounts to create groups for children to chat with each other. Sorry to burst your bubble, kids, but you’re under 13. You don’t need a Whatsapp group. Pick up the land line and call your friends to talk to them. It worked when we were growing up and it works now too.

People are openly surprised when we tell them that Gy does not use gadgets, play on the iPad or on my phone. She uses the laptop at home to access school sites and learning applications under my watchful eye. We have enabled parental controls on all devices at home and have had an open discussion with her on the need for controlled time online as well as making her realise that the world wide web is a quicksand of mammoth proportions.

Are gadgets bad? No, they have their uses, but limiting them makes sense, in my opinion.What does she do to keep busy? She plays outdoors with her friends, reads a lot, plays board games, quills, crafts, draws, paints and uses even kitchen items and clothes from my wardrobe to keep herself engaged. Trust me, it works.

2. Monitoring social media usage

I get that you don’t want to be that parent who hovers over her child’s shoulder or keeps asking your child whether he/she is on a gaming site for longer than necessary. Children need their space but how much of that space is filled with innocent friends and how much of it is being trawled by predators is a murky call.

If your children do use social media, my suggestion is they do it in the open with you around. Let them make their way around but ask them to be wary of clicking on spurious links and friend requests from people that they know nothing of, outside of social media. Ask them to be wary of uploading pictures of themselves onto any social media network.

These are adolescents with changing values and variable hormones.Treading delicately makes sense but total relinquishing of control does not. Be the parent who is empathetic yet detached. Tricky, I know.

3. Keeping an open channel of communication

In my mind, this is the most important guideline of all. You know when your kids babble incessantly and drive you crazy with their talking? As maddening as it may be, learn to listen to them. It’s important. It’s the fact that you are open to their ideas now that will help them come back to you and talk about the things that really matter when they grow older- trouble with a friend, a suspicious touch at school, something uncomfortable that they read/heard- it could be just about anything.

It bears to keep in mind the following rule as well as pass it on to your kids at every opportunity: The world online is very scary and very different from the real world. People can hide behind a screen and be extremely vindictive or suspiciously nice, for their own motives. A part of me is saddened that I have to warn my child of predators everywhere these days: schools, malls, restaurants and even online, but there’s little else to be done.

So, while I may be called a Dragon or Tiger Mom for limiting technology for my child or monitoring the time that she spends online, I’d prefer to play it safe than sorry. Knowing that despite doing everything I cannot protect my child 100%, I’m still going to give it my very best shot. It’s the least I can do.


Suggested Further Reading:

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eKAVACH PRO- Cyber Security for our children

eKAVACH PRO- Cyber Security for our children

We live in an age where we are connected to practically everyone in our lives via gadgets and devices. So, it is hardly surprising that we need to think about security and safety for our children in this digital world.

A couple of days ago, I had written about the need for caution when sharing pictures of our kids online. In that scenario, it is very clear that the onus of responsibility lies in our hands. But what happens when your child is open to cyber security risks such as pornography, bullying, sexting and more? As much as I would like to believe that I am an empathetic parent, there is a high chance that my daughter won’t be sharing everything with me as time goes by. And, to be honest, I am fine by that, because she needs space to grow as an individual. However, if we can monitor things such as inappropriate websites or track our kids when they are out alone late at night, I am sure we’d all sleep a bit better in our beds.

I am a heavy smartphone (Android) and app user myself, so I was pretty delighted when Blog Adda and eKavach Pro reached out to me to review their app on my site. 

The eKavach Pro requires two Android phones (version 4.0 and above) for it to be installed and work effectively. The first app is downloaded onto the Parent’s device and is called the eKavach Parental Control App. The second app is downloaded onto the child’s device and is called the eKavach Parental Control Child. Before downloading the app, I read a few reviews that mentioned the phone’s performance was lagging after installation. I am currently running Android version 5.1 on both devices that I used for this review and found the performance to be rather seamless, finding no lag whatsoever.

Let me first describe the Parental app, followed by the Child app and then highlight the salient features.

Parental App:

On the parent device, clicking on ‘New Family Registration’ enables you to create an account using either your Facebook login, your Google+ account or an email address. This will be the single point login used for both the parent and child devices. 

Once your login credentials are verified using an SMS from eKavach, you will be prompted to complete the registration process and fill in your profile details.

After this, you get a confirmation that the Parent account has been created:

This is followed by the prompt to download the child app onto your child’s device.

Finally, step 3 asks if you would like to add another Parent device to your dashboard:

Child App:

Installing the child app is even simpler.  For starters, the login credentials are the same as the parent app, so there is no secondary set up to be done. But, there is an important step called ‘Certificate installation’ which monitors Internet activity on the child’s device. 

Once the credentials are confirmed, the Parent app gets notifications on its Dashboard, based on preset rules. You can now view all account details on the parent device’s dashboard as below:

Salient Features which I loved

Emergency SOS button:

 This is a single touch button that, when pressed on the child’s device , sends an instant alert to the parent device. Very useful to track the child’s location in an emergency. 

Send Message Feature:

This enables the child to send a text message to the parent. It only requires a Network connection and does not mandate the use of a SIM card.

Child’s Device Heartbeat:

Site Filtering on Child Device via Parent Device: With the threat of predators online growing by the day, this is a very useful feature indeed. You can input specific URLs that you would like blocked on your child’s device. In addition, you can also filter broad categories such as ‘Adult’, ‘Aggressive’ and more, to tighten the filters further.

Concerns I had

The keyword filter option that is built into the app is pretty good, but it seems to have a few bugs. For instance, when I type in the word ‘Sex’ it blocks the browser from displaying any data. However, when I type in the word ‘Sexual’, it displays Wikipedia entries and other facts regarding sexuality. I did not check all the search results, so I am not entirely sure how foolproof the filter would be.

Just to be sure, I typed in ‘Hot Dosas’ and it blocked the browser with the message below. So, there are definitely some kinks that need to be ironed out.

Then, there is the idea that my child or any child, for that matter, may consider this app to be rather intrusive on their privacy. After all, if you have a teenage child, you have enough adolescent hormones to deal with, anyway. Currently, my child does not have a phone and only uses an Android Tab for sketching and gaming on weekends.  But there will come a time when she will ask for a phone. 

In this scenario, I think the best approach to take would be of trust with responsibility. You are the best judge of your own child. Keeping this app as an option for safeguarding the child, instead of a device to monitor his/her every move will go a long way to enable the relationship between parent and child.

No app is fool proof, of course. But this is a small step we can take to ensure that our children are, at least, within our scope of comfort and just a button’s push away in an emergency.

Thank you to eKavach and Blog Adda for giving me the opportunity to do this review.

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Sharing kids’ pictures online: 3 things you should know

Sharing kids’ pictures online: 3 things you should know

Yes, this is a parenting blog, so you’d expect that I would be sharing quite a bit about my kid here and that may necessarily involve pictures of my child online. Sharing kids’ pictures online is a very common activity these days, one that we all indulge in. But, do we know of the pitfalls?

As recently as three days ago, I received unwelcome messages through social media from an acquaintance who chose to make inappropriate comments on a profile picture of mine. Suffice to say, the comments were creepy enough for me to block him on every social media channel possible! This got me thinking: how would I feel if my child or any child was the recipient of such messages? It starts with the sharing of pictures, after all.

What is it about sharing kids’ pictures online must you keep in mind, even as a parent blogger?

 Here are some pointers which I have learnt to follow:

  • Limit the Audience:

Children are naturally photogenic. Their smiles light up a room and our hearts almost instantly. It’s but natural that you’d want to share those precious moments. And you should. But, not with the world at large. Create a private photo album on Google Plus or Flickr and share that link by e-mail with close friends and family. 

If that is too time-consuming and you are naturally more active on social media, use a filter for your friend circle and share the album only with ‘Close friends’ or ‘Family’. Check the small ‘wheel’ under photos each time you post something on Facebook and ensure that it is NOT set to ‘Public’. For this reason, it makes sense not to share your child’s photo as your Facebook profile picture or the cover photo, since those are always set to ‘Public’ view.

sharing photos online, sharing kids pictures, Internet, privacy, Safety
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  • Avoid Specifics:

Don’t caption photos of your kids on your blog, Twitter or Instagram with titles such as ‘Had such a fabulous time at the park that’s hardly a five-minute walk from home.’ Did you know your phone/ device has something called a GPS locator? And while you may have taken every precaution to switch it off, your data is sometimes collected anonymously. The Web is a dangerous place and you really do not want some creepy stalker landing up at your doorstep or anywhere within a five-mile radius of your home.

  • Ensure they are fully clothed:

This seems like a no-brainer, because, who’s going to post pictures of their newborns/kids in all their glory? No, what I meant is those moments when you capture the kids in a moment of free play and you don’t realise that the pants were riding a bit low, revealing a bit of their derriere or that they were flashing their knickers during a pillow fight. While this may not seem like such a big deal to most people, it is definitely a teaser for pedophiles out there. 

As much as I love social media, being connected to people from all over the world and sharing my A-ha moments in parenting and blogging, I have learnt to be very cautious when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty of photo sharing. To be honest, I have shared a fair number of pictures online in the past and there’s no telling how much of it I can actually delete now. 

But, at the very least, I can now ensure that photos of my child are not misused, by not sharing them with the world at large.


What else do you do to ensure the safety of your children’s photos online?

Do share in the comments.


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