One of the greatest advances in the history of human communication is that of social media. The ability to connect with anyone we want with just a few clicks has dramatically changed the way people interact. Grandparents who only saw their grandkids once or twice a year can now sing sweet songs as their newest grandchild drifts off to sleep through live video services such as Skype or Facetime.
Live video is perhaps the fastest growing social media. It’s the latest shiny object that people are flocking toward. Periscope is the most popular, with Facebook Live coming in close behind. The Diocese has used Periscope to give people a behind-the-scenes look at our Chrism Mass, a tour of the diocesan video/podcasting studio, a view of the dome being placed on our new cathedral and more.
Problems for parents
Parents, however, should be aware that this step forward in social media technology needs to be monitored closely. Even before live video, children were at risk of being virtually approached by predators and abusers. There is a popular video online of a fake abduction experiment, where pre-teens and teenagers would “meet” someone online, and sometimes after just a few minutes of chatting would sneak out of their house to meet the person. With live video, there is an even greater element of social pressure causing young people to say and do things that they know are immoral.
Dangers for children
Dangers of live video social media, like Periscope or Facebook Live, include real-time bullying, sexual comments or harassment, and, through the phone’s GPS, revealing your teen’s location. Due to the fact that the video is distributed live, there is no ability to sensor the content. Similarly, children can view other people’s live video, which can reveal inappropriate activity and commentary. Pornographers are already active in reaching out to unsuspecting users to solicit them to watch their videos.
You can’t guard them from everything
While social media gives us the opportunity to connect with friends and family, it also subjects us to the risks of exposure to illicit and immoral activity. There is no getting around the risk-reward scenario. Every time another technology comes along to patch a hole in parental-controls, another social media will come along that undermines your best intentions.
Guard and Educate
The real question is not so much how you can get your child to avoid inappropriate use of social media but instead teaching them the lessons needed to make good choices and protect their purity and integrity. Obviously, you should do whatever you can to guard them from inappropriate material online. That almost goes without saying. But teaching your child why it is important for them to live a life of virtue and holiness will do far more for their faith than anything else. Every stage in a child’s life involves more freedom and more potential for risk. Too many children are given the freedom of technology without having first been educated and mentored on how to exercise prudence and discretion with their decisions. The most important step you can take as a parent to teach them the best way to use technology is the same way you teach them to pray, brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, etc.: by example. Children learn more from what you do than what you say.