Sunday May 18 2014

Your child and social media

By Pauline Bangirana

These days, it is rare to hear of children who do not have some sort of profile with at least a small handful of social networking sites. Whether your children are online once in a blue moon or their instant messenger seems permanently attached to the palm of their hand, it affects them.
Social media is cheaper, faster and hustle free. Platforms include Facebook, Whatsapp, viber, twitter, Skype, snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. But what happens when a child spends a lot of time on these platforms, neglecting house chores or homework.

Establish why
Andrew Mwiima, a teacher at Naalya Secondary School, says: “It is hard to prevent the child from using the social media but as a parent, I would keep them away from the gadgets until they are older.” But what happens when the child already has access to internet enabled gadgets? As a parent, how do you prevent your child from accessing social media and why would you want them away from it? What is your fear?

Simon Ndaula, a psychologist, says, “Preventing a teenager from accessing the social media is close to impossible because they will access it anywhere either from their friends’ gadgets or the internet cafes they visit.” A 13-year-old child and below, can be prevented from accessing it through supervision of internet activities they engage in. If they go visiting, as a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that there is some supervision on their internet activities. Ndaula adds, “It is quite hard preventing children from accessing social media and the best solution is warning them against overusing the social media.”

How do you handle ?
Michael Niyitegeka, an ICT consultant at Hyper Colabo, says children can be prevented from social media through locking the phones. “Android phones have a provision where you select what the child accesses and you can also be able to monitor the internet sites they visit. You can also block devices like laptops from accessing some sites and if you can’t do it yourself, you can talk to an internet service provider to help you out.” This helps you prevent the child from accessing social media.

According to Merab Natukunda, a teacher at Kampala Quality Primary School, first find out what makes the child join the social media; is it to chat with friends or look at the bright pictures? Engage them in activities that will distract them from social media.

For instance, visiting friends. This way they will not see the need for social media. “However, this also depends on the age because this will apply for a primary school child because they can easily be distracted while a secondary child might not be.” For Sheila Kenyangi, a mother, she does not prevent her child from accessing the social media. “I just monitor him or her to ensure they are not sharing too much information.”

Paulo Kiluuta, a cyclist, would warn the child against overusing social media if they are stubborn, I confiscate the gadget on spot.” However, with this age and era, where communication is mostly done through social media, prevention is indeed a challenge, monitoring their usage seems more manageable.