By now you must be aware of the latest social media app that is taking the world by storm: Sarahah. Anyway chances are that your teen or tween might already be using it on her smartphone! On the face of it, this app sounds pretty innocent and straightforward. It’s Saudi-based developer created it as a tool for co-workers to share “anonymous” constructive criticism and feedback at the workplace. But things tend to get out of hand when anonymity comes into play; and the app has attracted vicious trolls and cyber-bullies showering abuses and threats left, right and center. “Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can take action against such people as you have to register to dish out your brand of venom. Sarahah, on the other hand, has declared open season for trolling, as now the harasser is completely invisible”. Sometimes the barrage of abuses and unhealthy comments might even come from someone close to you; as the anonymity provides the perfect excuse to shed aside all social niceties. According to Protect Young Eyes, “anything anonymous is not meant for kids”. And we, at Mobicip, always recommend that parents turn off the App Store on their children’s devices, so that their kids don’t come across such influences even by chance.
Sarahah is but an eddy in the constantly churning waters of social media trends. There are numerous other apps and services that our children access everyday, that might leave them exposed to unhealthy influences and behaviour. What is scarier than the large number of such niche social media platforms, is the rate at which newer apps come up on the App Store and Google Play. We are living in a social media bubble of frenzy, so to speak! Legacy social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter still thrive because of a huge captive audience base; but their growth has largely flat-lined. The younger more recent entrants in the social media game such as Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder are achieving meteoric growth rates in half the time that it took for their predecessors (Facebook, Tumblr, Orkut and Twitter); but they are peaking much sooner too! And therein lies the core of this social media bubble. Today’s generation churns out fads by the dozen and relegates them to oblivion soon after; only to hunt for more latest trends. When and whether this bubble pops is only conjecture, but what’s for certain is that parents need to be more aware and observant about the range and extent of content that their children can be potentially exposed to.
It is undeniable that in terms of parenting and parent-child relationships, the digital era is vastly different from the one that preceded it. People have always believed that change is the only constant in life; but the digital age has brought forth an explosion of change that seems to shrink time and existence. Changes that took generations to manifest come and go in a matter of years today. There is an immense need to slow down life today! Digital teens steeped into social media might find this notion almost preachy, but parents transitioning into the digital world could well understand the importance of jumping off the digital train hurtling down the tracks of change. With technology increasingly interweaving into the web of life, digital/social-media addiction can become a pandemic unless recognized and handled carefully. Parents must actively try to bring life offline for their kids; for time is too precious to be spent staring at glowing screens.There has been a catastrophic decline of real-life activities and it is very easy in the age of rebellion to lose sight of balance and overdo social media entertainment to the point of addiction. The digital age is unusual in that the teenager was born into it as against the parent who was likely dragged into kicking and screaming. While demonising digital influences on life (and quite rightly so), parents must also realise that digital tools themselves can come in handy for tackling digital addiction; there are effective parental controls to assist along the way, for example. Despite the time lost in social media and the digital ecosystem, we must agree that the digital world has shrunk space and distance. Eliminating the barrier of distance has enriched communication and exchange of knowledge and information. There is no doubt that students of all developed and most developing countries are actively engaged on social networks in the pursuit educational knowledge sharing. Educational technology is fast becoming the harbinger of change and individual development in classrooms across the world by leveraging on the digital ecosystems already in place. Relationship-building too has been greatly influenced by the rise of social media as an amazing tool for interaction and conversation with peers. By bridging distances, social media has opened the floodgates to cultural exchanges, popular beliefs and knowledge sharing thus enriching minds in the process. The mind is shaped by the world we see, and the digital world comes closest to representing the whole world as it is; and social media has redefined the relationship building process:
The digital frenzy of change that we are experiencing today is much like a wild horse that must be broken in. The reins to hold it steady are in our hands and we must learn to identify the techniques to gain control. The digital environment today serves as the window to the world, so shutting it up for your kids isn't an option; but that said, blinds and curtains are definitely a must to keep out harmful influences. An open conversation about technology use at home is a healthy beginning towards a participative family. Instead of only shielding children from negative influences such as pornography and violence, parents could also consider talking explaining why such themes are not in the best interest of their kids. As Kristen A. Jenson writes in her book (Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids) to stay safe in the digital age, kids must install an internal filter in their own brain. According to Chris McKenna, from Protect Yound Eyes, there is not a more curious species on planet earth than a young, pre- or elementary school human child. So while you proof your children's digital environment against negative online influences, please involve them in the discussion and try to make them understand what's out there!