Written by Chris Sutton, Creator of the C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense System
If you think that you’re monitoring your child’s social networking activity and keeping it under control, you are not.Your child knows how to erase a post. They know how to make things look like nothing is going on. That’s just one reason why we recommend against allowing any child under the age of 18 to create any type of social media page.
What are some of the other reasons?
Sexual predators, pedophiles and other criminals go fishing for victims. They go out there and throw out bait to try to catch the unwary. If your child is impressionable, or they’re always trying to do the right thing and not hurt someone’s feelings, or they think every adult is nice, quite often they get hooked and then they don’t know how to get away. It’s very easy for a predator to create a fake profile online. They pretend to be a kid from your child’s school, or a friend of a friend. They start to chat with your child through social media, or they exchange emails. They say Yeah, I’m in intramural football after school, too. Why don’t you hang out with me? or I’m going to be at the mall this Saturday with some friends. Let’s meet up. And when your child goes there, there’s a 52-year-old man waiting for him.
Another good reason is that children don’t always stop and think before they post something online. For example, your child posts that the whole family is going to be away on vacation, or going to a ball game, or to the movies. Little Johnny down the street, who is friends with your child on that social media site, sees that. Maybe little Johnny isn’t a thief, but he has an older brother who is 16 or 17 who he mentions it to, and big brother and his buddies decide to go rob your house when they know no one is going to be home. So even though you know your child’s friend, you donâ’t necessarily know who else that friend might talk to, and now the information is in the wrong hands, because it’s all over the Internet and that’s how criminals work. There was a story much like that not too long ago, where a elderly lady had a shoe box full of money in her house because she didn’t like to keep money in a bank. Not the best idea, perhaps, but that was her prerogative if that was whaÂ she wanted to do, and it’s okay as long as nobody knows about it.Well, her grandson took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook and said “Look at Grandma’s savings!” Within two hours kids from down the street who saw that on Facebook robbed them via home invasion. It’s that simple.
Your child may think nothing of posting something about his plans to join friends tonight at eight at the neighborhood bowling alley. Meanwhile, there’s a certaina guy at school who’s just been waiting for a chance to get even with your child for some slight, whether real or imagined. Now that bully knows exactly where your son is going to be at a certain time. So this kid shows up as your son is walking in or out of the bowling alley and beats him up and calls him names and spits in his face, right in front of all his friends. All because of a casual, seemingly innocent post on a social media site. By telling everyone where you’re going, what you’re doing, who you’re with, what you’re thinking, giving them pictures of yourself, and letting them know where you live, this just makes it too easy for bullies and bad guys nowadays to rip you off, beat you up, abduct you, because they know when you’re home and when you’re not, what you look like, where you’re going, and who you’re with.We just made it way too easy for these people. In all honesty, what does a child under 18 need with any kind of social media? If they don’t own a business, if they are’nt a politician, if they don’t have a cause, then the only thing social media outlets allow them to do is to walk into a virtual auditorium filled with strangers, some of whom are guaranteed to be dangerous. Would you allow your child to attend such an event? If someone was selling tickets to an event where you can go hang out in an auditorium, and in that auditorium there are not only other kids, parents, and other normal people, but potential killers, rapists, pedophiles, burglars, animal abusers, and kidnappers, would you buy your child a ticket and allow them to go in there for two or three or four hours at a time? If not, don’t allow them on any type of social media. Establish a zero-tolerance policy.Â If your child says that everyone else is doing it, and they try to convince you that they’re going to grow up into a maladjusted adult because they don’t know how to use social media, don’t buy it. In all honesty, how long did it take you to learn social media? It doesn’t take a long time. It can wait until they’re older and more mature. As a parent, you want to shield your child for as long as possible from as much harm as possible, and there is nothing beneficial about getting on the Internet as a 13-, 14-, or 15-year-old and seeing someone post something about one of your friends, or about someone breaking up with someone, or that someone thinks you’re fat and ugly and they don’t like your shoes, or that you’re horrible at football, or whatever it is. There is nothing good about it. Cowards and Internet tough guys use the Internet and social media just to make other people feel bad at the push of a button. Don’t allow your child to stand in front of this firing squad of morons and idiots. If you do, that is going to be on your shoulders. Keep in mind that you’re being proactive.You are closing doors that lead to bullying, kidnapping, rape, and anything else you can imagine. So many parents leave these metaphorical doors unlocked, and all the child has to do is go open them. It’s a cell phone, or social media, or hanging out with bad kids in the neighborhood, or it’s them not understanding they can have a green light to talk to the parent. It’s you ignoring blatant red flags in your home and not going through their room to uncover a journal that says I hate my life. I wish that I would die. I want to kill myself because I’m being bullied. Can you imagine how you would feel if you went through your kids room after the fact and found their journal dated a month or two ago saying that they wanted to kill themselves because they were being bullied? I’m not saying that to make you feel bad; I want to impress on you that now is the time to be proactive. These are real cases, believe it or not. Kids are literally killing themselves because of a change in status on some social media site, or because someone un-friended them. Before something like that happens, there are going to be signs. In police work they call them clues. If your child is deviating from their normal behavior, there is something wrong.You know it, but you just can’t put your finger on it. Like I said in the beginning, you need to be vigilant and have zero tolerance. Don’t wait until you’re sure about what’s going on, because that might be too late. So social media absolutely not. Children under the age of 18 living in your house should not have social media. They can get along without it. They can go play football, basketball, soccer or they can go out in the front yard and hang out with their friends. They can go in the backyard. They can be on any kind of sports team, they should be doing their homework., Eating their dinner, doing their chores and being an average kid. They don’t need to get caught up in that risk, and that is absolutely what it is, an unnecessary risk.
One final note: Keep in mind that your child can create a profile at their friend’s house, or at school, or at the library, or with a friend’s cell phone. It’s a very good idea to periodically go online yourself and do a search. It’s very simple for them to create an online presence which they’re trying to hide from you because you told them you don’t want them hanging out online. The only way you’ll know about it is if you search for it.