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How Social Media Is Turning Into A Minefield For Children

In today’s world, being a parent is scary. It always has been, but it looks like the more we get bombarded by social media and technological innovations, the more dangers they pose for our children. As parents, our first instinct is to always protect them, but sometimes we can't keep up, and there is this overwhelming fear that they will get hurt because we just didn’t pay enough attention.

 

The Times They Are a-Changin'

 

In a way, it was easier for us when we were kids, because while things like bullying and violence, sadly, always existed, there were fewer channels to propagate them. You’d throw punches in the schoolyard, but home was your safe space. There was no such thing as cyber bullying, internet trolling, hate speech, phishing, or online predators. In my early days of going to Internet Cafes,the worst thing happening to me was playing Age of Empires and getting attacked by all the other players so that they would avoid the “humiliation” of getting beaten by a girl. And while the notion of gender inferiority was damaging in itself, it was far from what other kids have to suffer these days. Hurtful messages invade every corner of our kids’ safe space nowadays. Predators try to lure them in, scammers try to gather their private data, bullies try to break them.

 

There Is No Safe Space On The Internet

 

And we must do better—not just as people, but as companies trying to provide entertainment to the masses. YouTube got rightfully dragged for allowing suicide messages and violence propaganda on their own YouTube Kids platform which supposedly has curated videos. And yet, creators found a way to let harmful content slip through their videos, like a man randomly popping into a colourful video, just to tell kids how to slit their wrists if they want attention. It’s sick, gruesome, and chilling—but the worst part of it is that it took YouTube eight months to review the video after being flagged by users. This latency isn’t doing them any favours. In that time, the video gathered millions of views. The damage had already been done—and we’ll probably never know just to what extent. Despite the fact that they claim that flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7, taking action only after it’s too late doesn’t suggest that they do their due diligence when it comes to ensuring that kids only have access to appropriate content.

But after all, what can we expect from YouTube, when not even their main platform is free of propaganda, conspiracies, and fake news?Advertisers have been forced to pull off their ads because they don’t want to be associated with videos promoting hate, while honest and hardworking content creators are the collateral damages in this move, losing money in the process.However, no financial loss is bigger than the threat of a child who is being told that violence is a solution or that their life is worthless.

 

EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

 

What can we do as parents? Banning everything isn’t an option either. We know that the more we prohibit something, the more they want it. Instead, we need to integrate online media in our lives. We need to filter it, and more importantly, encourage the conversation about the things our kids watch. We need to encourage them to talk about what they watch and what they think about it. In an ideal world, we would watch everything with them and point out the dangerous messages as they happen, but this isn’t entirely on us.I don’t blame parents who need some time off and who feel like playing a ten-minute video on their child’s tablet could give them momentarily some peace. We are humans, not robots programmed to be alert 24/7. Schools and caretakers need to show awareness too towards the content the children digest—we all owe it to them.

If a multi billion-dollar company has their whole marketing revolved around the idea of safe content for kids, we expect them—perhaps naively—to act on that promise. But instead, they just shrug it off and pass the responsibility back to the parent, who will now have the option to handpick videos for their kids to watch. What does this tell us? It tells us that we only have to trust ourselves. That we need to activate parenting filters, curate the things our kids watch, watch for labels stating the minimum recommended age for that type of content, and make sure they understand what is and isn’t acceptable to do in real life. Because in the end,it’s not the content itself that is the most harmful, but what kids make of it.And this is both our responsibility as adults, and of the company providing that content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Fechete

Writer

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