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This week, Damian Hinds, Education Secretary in the UK announced a new initiative coming to classrooms in his country; education on the perils of social media.
These classes will target students aged four to eleven and be used to guide children and help them gain skills to identify risks and harmful content online for themselves. The material in these classes will be similar to age-appropriate sex and relationship education classes that already take place in public schools.
“Alongside parents, of course, schools must still play a role in protecting children – and government also has a responsibility to help them,” Hinds says.
With the support of parents, schools and government in the UK recognize the need to work together in caring for and protecting children online. A Duty of Care campaign has been created by The Daily Telegraph looking for ministers to make online gaming and social media companies responsible for protecting children from addiction, bullying, and grooming while on their services.
To be clear, there are a lot of children and teens out there who use social media and are able to stay safe, healthy and connected, and this is especially true when parents are involved.
A critical role for parents and mentors in the age of social media is to help the next generation prepare for what can appear online. Open communication amongst families will benefit greatly when a child comes across any potential trouble.
However, even as grown-ups in these online spaces, we are all too aware that the experience is not always great. It is a common concern for parents how their child will react or feel when they inevitably come across inappropriate content online.
With social media becoming more a constant in our daily lives today, it is vital for children to learn to use it in a productive, safe, and responsible way.
Merely confiscating cell phones at the beginning of class is not effective enough in dealing with these complex issues kids are up against; doing that just delays them for an hour. We need to get to the root of these issues and tackle them as a village.
Some children feel there is no escape from cyberbullying because it follows them everywhere online. Others are losing the balance of school, social, and home life, and that can potentially lead to mental health problems.
These are the reasons I got into Tech in the first place. Kids need digital platforms that are designed to be positive spaces. Ones that encourage families to share safe and moderated content that promotes positivity and inspiration.
Children already have a natural tendency to want to share their interests, fun events in their lives, and cool photos of them with their friends and these positive values can be built upon.
Most would agree those concepts are much more appealing than the other things kids potentially are exposed to, such as being vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and even violence.
As per usual, I’d like to hear the opinion of fellow parents. Should social media education become a part of the curriculum similarly to sex and relationship education? Does government have a role to play in teaching the masses about being positive digital citizens? Do you have any tips that have worked for your family that you would like to share with other parents?
If you are seeking advice in the world of tech and how it affects you and your family, we encourage you to send an email to Askada@mazufamily.com, and we will do our best to provide practical, insightful advice.
Janice Taylor is a social entrepreneur, mother, speaker, author and online safety advocate. Her credo of compassion, community, and caring drives the vision of her company Mazu, a safe and fun online platform for families. Mazu gives parents a place to communicate, play and connect with their children in a safe engagement environment.