Many parents nowadays are worried about how to distract their children from social networks and electronic gadgets. They are reasonably concerned about their physical and psychological health and safety.
Social networks allow teenagers to communicate, find out interesting and useful information, find public places in their studies, discuss their hobbies (films, music, dancing, singing, sports, games, etc.) and much more. Social media for teenagers is an integral part of their socialization.
But, despite the obvious attractiveness, it is necessary to realize the dangers of using social media at this age. It is known that children have a lower level of a critical attitude towards news, videos and messages than adults. Children are more trusting, which means that they are a convenient “object” for influences.
Given the still unformed psyche, the most dangerous for teenagers are the so-called suicidal groups, groups of people suffering from anorexia nervosa, recruitment groups in banned organizations, pornography, communication with paedophiles and fraudsters, cyberbullying (bullying).
Child on Internet
What are the dangers of social media? Since 2015, groups began to appear en masse on social networks where children are persuaded to commit suicide online. In them, children are encouraged to commit suicide by broadcasting a video of this act on the Internet. According to law enforcement agencies, professional psychologists work in these groups who methodically lead children and adolescents to suicide.
Moderators of death groups often find adolescents who already suffer from depression and do not hide their suicidal thoughts on their page (they listen to specific music, post photographs of death, are interested in the “emo” subculture. Next, they use a harsh, manipulative effect on psyche adolescents.
The most dangerous thing is that the deceased children’s parents did not notice any oddities in their behaviour.
According to statistics, in just six months (from November 2015 to April 2016), 130 teenagers committed suicide due to such groups.
The relevant authorities constantly block sites promoting suicide. But in place of one closed one immediately, others appear.
How can parents recognize the danger of suicide?
The most critical sign of suicidal tendencies is a sharp change in adolescent behaviour. If your child seeks isolation, becomes uncommunicative, sad, loses his previous interests and hobbies, stops meeting friends, starts skipping school – take urgent action!
Weight loss groups leading to anorexia
In social networks, there are hundreds of communities where it is customary to show off their thinness. Teenage girls hate their bodies, strive for the ideal weight of 35 kilograms.
The most popular group has 4.5 million subscribers, and its ex-administrator died of anorexia a few years ago.
Communities for extreme weight loss are among teenage girls. Today, by request “Anorexia”, you can find more than 1,700 communities, and this is not counting some groups with “encrypted” names, closed from outsiders.
Teenagers get addicted to different diets and promote their lifestyle among their friends. Thus, the number of skinny women is growing rapidly. For them, it is like a drug that can also lead to death.
Signs of the influence of these groups on the consciousness of teenagers
The following signs of anorexia will help you recognize your child’s dangerous tendencies in time: decreased appetite caused by dissatisfaction with one’s appearance; increasing the time spent in front of the mirror; decreased immunity, weakness of the body: dizziness and chronic fatigue, abdominal pain (especially after eating); increased fragility and dryness of hair, as well as hair loss, violation or cessation of menstruation. Please take a closer look at your child, his interest in diets and nutrition, his unhealthy anxiety about the number of calories consumed. Does she follow famous models in the fashion world or has a keen interest in fashion.
Recruitment to prohibited organizations and groups
There is a recruitment network for international terrorist organizations on the Internet. Nationality and religion for these people do not matter. Recruiters work everywhere, especially through social media. According to ig.net, about 80% of recruitment to terrorist organizations occurs through social media and forums.
Recruiters are top-class professionals, often of Slavic appearance, with European education. Experienced psychologists, they know exactly how to get a person to act in their best interests.
The recruiter looks for clues to a specific person, identifying and pressing on his pain points. They are significantly helped by information from a social media page, a questionnaire on sites and forums, chattering on the network, when teenagers share their personal experiences with unfamiliar people.
Signs of recruiters’ work and their impact on teenagers
Has your child become aggressive? Often talks about injustice and the need for radical changes in her/his life or the lives of others? If these judgments have become harsh and aggressive towards society, the child is most likely under the recruiter’s influence. In this case, it is necessary to check this and show more attention to the child, take a closer look at his environment and friends, communicate and spend more time, find out a new circle of her/his acquaintances, and then look at the situation. Engage the child in a useful activity that would teach her/him useful skills.
According to Kaspersky Lab, content “for adults” worldwide takes 1.5% of children and teenagers’ total Internet activity. Pornography harms the psychological health of children and interferes with their full development.
Influence and consequences of porn on teenagers
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The lack of timely sex education for teenagers leads to dire consequences. Intimate relationships at an early age are unprotected contacts, random selection and selection of partners, venereal diseases. These are undermining the foundations of family relationships and fidelity, a threat to creating strong family relationships, a blow to your family.
Signs of this are changes in the teenager’s behaviour: swagger, laxity and the absence of communication barriers with the opposite gender. Suppose parents do not react to behaviour changes. In that case, further infatuation with porn by teenagers leads to various forms of perversion, which is very difficult to eradicate; it turns into passionate attraction and mental changes.
Child communication with paedophiles
A paedophile can introduce himself to a child as an adult or his peer or older teenager.
Experts say that paedophiles are trying to establish contact with children, communicating with them on topics of interest to them: music, films, school, hobbies. They gain the child’s trust and begin to engage in intimate conversations to make the child believe that close relationships with “older friends” are the norm. They play on the child’s curiosity by talking to them about sex, what parents often don’t.
There is another danger that few people talk about. In social media, public groups are spawning where children, by persuasion or blackmail, are forced to take pictures in an obscene form.
Signs of child contact with paedophiles
It is more difficult to detect sexual abuse of a child, but it is worth paying attention to the following signs:
- Sudden sexual manifestations. It is expressed in the desire to touch a child’s own or someone else’s intimate places;
- The emergence of great fear of other people. Fear of going to all kinds of events that the child previously attended with pleasure. The strong desire of the child not to be near people.
Child communication with scammers
An unreasonable life in virtual reality can lead to loss of money. Even adults often fall for various tricks of Internet scammers. What can we say about children who still do not have the necessary baggage of knowledge and experience behind their backs?
The most popular types of social media fraud are psychics, get-rich-quick opportunities, pornographic blackmail, fake online stores, etc.
Signs of scamming your children
Do you keep track of how your child spends the money you gave out? It is very hard for a teenager to admit that he was scammed; it hurts his pride. It is not easy even for an adult to tell that he was “cheated”, so it is difficult to identify these troubles in children. Try to remember how much pocket money you gave and on what the child spent this money. It happens that teenagers, having not received money from their father, go to their mother, grandmother, grandfather. Ask them if they gave money, how much, and you can easily calculate your child’s real monthly budget.
Cyberbullying or bullying of a child by peers
Online humiliation or bullying is sometimes more painful for teens and children than bullying at school or in the yard.
Using social networks, Internet aggressors spread humiliating and defamatory photos, videos, parody pictures, rumours. The information reaches a large number of users. Cyber aggression can repeatedly intimidate and blackmail their victims.
In many cases, children cannot determine who is the source of the bullying but are afraid of their revenge when seeking help from parents or other adults.
Signs of teen bullying
Gloom, depression, bad mood, isolation, unwillingness to make contact with parents – these are sure signs that something is wrong in a child’s life.
If your child is looking for any reason not to go to school or even switch it, while coming up with a bunch of refined excuses, you need to assess the situation in detail. As a rule, the banal unwillingness to study does not manifest itself in a constant depression.
How to keep kids safe from the dangers of social media
Set Internet time limits. According to the statistics, less than 25% of parents impose minimum restrictions on using the Internet for their children. In comparison, more than 70% of children access the Internet every day (about a third have their profiles on social networks).
Educate your child about the dangers of social media. To avoid the above problems, psychologists advise parents to establish good contact with their children. Adults are often unaware of the problems in a child’s life and do not know how to ensure their online safety.
Set up your child’s/teen’s computer to use the Internet. Experts advise using social networks only on stationary computers and laptops, where it is possible to use special “parental supervision and control” programs to ensure children and teenagers’ safety. These applications help you track your child’s online activity, block unwanted sites, and set time limits on Internet use.
Use the monitoring program – InspectSystem for Parents to monitor your child’s work at the computer. It helps parents recognize the dangers of social media in time, works online and in real-time.
Using the tracking software you:
- protect children from fatal mistakes
- understand what is happening to your child now
- protect the psychological health of the child
- keep your family calm