I’m going to step away from the subject of sleep for this post. As a mom of young children I’ll admit I’ve been naive in my thoughts on social media and children. Naivety or denial ⎯ perhaps the same thing?

I have said in the past that I hope once my eldest daughter reaches the age where social media is accessible or wanted in her life, things will have come full circle. I wish that Facebook, texting, and Twitter will be but a thing of the past and the life of a tween or teen will be what it was when I was a child. The way we connected with friends was hanging out in person, meeting at the corner store, or talking on the phone.

As my daughter gets older and I become more involved in social media, the realization that this is all wishful thinking is slowly starting to sink in. Will she ever know a world without social media? Probably not.

 
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I felt more prepared for the answer to that question after reading RAFFI Cavoukian’s, newest book LIGHTWEB DARKWEB. It explains how parents and adults need to become more educated and aware of the world of social media and what it’s doing to our children. He likens it to an “Information Superhighway” one we can’t trust our children to be safe on without first knowing how to drive. The information in this book was insanely eye opening and something I needed to read.

LIGHTWEB DARKWEB is dedicated to Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old girl who tragically committed suicide in 2012 after being blackmailed and bullied online. The book’s main focus is to make parents more aware of internet and social media safety. The information written about how to protect our children from the dangers that lurk online, the darkweb, and is both educational and shocking to a parent like myself. Although I’ll admit this is not what truly clutched my heart as I read.

It was the stats.

According to a June 2011 Consumer Reports survey 7.5 million users of Facebook were younger than 13 years old. Facebook age requirement is 13 years and older, though online forums like Facebook and Instagram have no way of checking the age of the child signing up. Of these 7.5 million only 18% of parents were “friends” with their child on Facebook.

We need to ask ourselves, why does a 10 year old need to be on Facebook and how does a 10 year old get on Facebook without either their parents knowing or being monitored? This is the responsibility of the parent ⎯ no 10 year-old-children should be on Facebook without parental approval. Some parents state a busy life and their own online illiteracy cause them to throw their hands up in defeat. I think parents, online policymakers, teachers and government need to work together to educate parents and children how to use technology/ the internet safely.

Something else Raffi wrote that spoke to me was how social media means that we are never alone. Our children are never alone. Being comfortable with ourselves is something that needs to be learned. I sometimes relish in my time alone, inside my own head, with my own thoughts. I remember when I was a teen, I found solitude in shutting off the world by going in my room, shutting the door and turning on some music. Maybe it was to wallow in my current teen angst, or simply to let my imagination run away. I needed it. I wasn’t lonely as Raffi writes; I was learning to be alone.

Our children, heck even us ourselves are always connected and connecting. It’s up to parents to set limits so that our children are able to shut off and be alone. If we don’t so do, a compulsion to be online might develop. I know what I’m like when I try to take a social media “break.” The pangs of withdrawal normally result in a “quick” Facebook check. Think what it’s like for the tweens and teens when being socially connected is the only goal in life. They need someone to remove the distraction of it all.

I suppose I can’t stay away from my sleep focus entirely. Chronic sleep deprivation is on the rise in our country and children and teens are amongst its victims, which is a huge problem. With sleep being one of the three pillars of health we cannot take it for granted as we have been doing. Biological needs have to be protected; especially for the mental health of young minds.

“We have a generation of teenagers who are two hours under-slept, and a generation of children who are two hours under-slept. All of our kids are under-slept, even our babies are under-slept, compared to just a decade ago.”

Turn off technology and get more sleep. Simple.

Do you know about the Red Hood Project, founded by Raffi Cavoukian, Sandy Garrosino, and Mark Busse? This movement is to make the social media industry more responsible for setting the standards and privacy acts to keep our children more safe online. How can this be done? It can be done by verifying a child’s age before signing up, disabling the location and web browser tracking, implementing a default privacy setting for children, and establishing firewall protection for their online data.

To get involved in the movement start by reading their open letter to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook here. Sign the letter and share it with anyone you can including your elected representative. Discuss this with your child’s teacher, at your next moms group meet-up and direct them to the site. Change can be made if enough parents are asking for it.

Communication between yourself and your child should always be open. Make your child aware of online dangers. I understand that sometimes parents have a hard time keeping up with privacy changes, or knowing what our children are doing behind the scenes, however we need to do our best to stay aware. In addition to parental support, the industry needs to be held responsible as well. Making those involved in the social media business aware of our wish for accountability is something we all can do. This starts by getting on board with the Red Hood Project.

Go here for more information on the Red Hood Project. To order Raffi’s book, Lightweb, Darkweb please visit here.

Raffi and the kids at his recent concert.  He is so great with kids!  What a delight to meet him in person.

Raffi and my kids at his recent concert. He is so great with kids! What a delight to meet him in person.

 

The drawing of Raffi my 6-year-old made for him.

The drawing of Raffi my 6-year-old made for him.

 

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