Social media is something that only the most recent generation have had to grow up with. Debuting on the Internet scene in the early noughties, social networking sites have flourished and presented a land of opportunities. However, it has equally presented an extremely dangerous system into each and everybody’s homes.
While many misguidedly feel that letting their children have a Facebook account (or similar social networking account) is just harmless fun, many parents only realise the profound negative impact it can have on their childrens when it is tragically, far too late.
As a parent, you’ve probably heard a similar warning time and time again – and I’d hazard to guess that approximately 80%, if not more, have dismissed as scaremongering or something that they don’t need to consider for their family.
The following point cannot be made forcefully enough, so if there is one thing that you take heed of today, ensure it is this:
Social Networking Can Kill Or Seriously Harm Your Child.
Now, before you brush this off as over zealous, anti social network, hyperbole lets take a look at the brutal facts of the matter.
Not only does social networking on the Internet have the potential to kill or seriously harm your child there are many documented and validated cases of where this has already happened.
Shocked to find this out? Most of you probably will be – but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that social networking is more dangerous to your child than the risk of drugs, alcohol or smoking.
Again, there are two fundamental reasons why social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter are a more apparent danger to your children than the misuse of substances:
- Parents widely accept their childs usage of social networks.
Yes, while the vast majority of families would hit the roof and do all they can to prevent the use (or misuse) or drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, most parents (unwittingly) allow a major cause of death and (physical and/or mental) injury into their homes with open arms.
- Parents are naive to the imminent danger social networks put their child in
Whether parents know it or not, from the second their child logs into a social network until the second their child logs out of a social network, they are playing Russian Roulette with their safety.
I can see some digital eyes rolling at this moment in time, so lets take a look at some cases.
How far back do we have to look to find social networking to have been a part of a teenagers death? Not far at all. 3 days to be precise.
Nichole Cable (15) – May 2013
Look familiar? Why shouldn’t it. Nichole Cable is a typical teenager with the rest of her life ahead of her.
That was until May 2013, when last month an older male (known to Nichole, an ex boyfriend) killed her after what was thought to be a failed kidnapping attempt by the 20 year old ex come stalker.
The MO of the perpetrator is one that is becoming all too familiar. Wanting to reconcile with Nichole, and with delusional thinking in tow, he believe that kidnapping his ex would rekindle their love affair.
It should be noted that the parents of Nichole forbade the relationship to continue prior to the murder after he was involved with a high speed police pursuit (a real winner, evidently).
The parents made the right choice and took steps to protect their child. Or so they thought.
Dube, the ex friend come stalker, took to Facebook and set up a fake profile to lure Nichole out to meet him at the end of her street – unbeknownst the extreme danger that her life was going to be put in.
Nichole was cautious, cautious enough to initially turn down requests to meet “Bryan Butterfield” (please note, many teenagers will not be this cautious). However, in the end she agreed, and unfortunately, this was one of the last decisions she made.
Protecting your child from murders is reason enough to ban them from Facebook. But even if the ultimate price is paid due to their social networking usage, many other terrible tragedies can occur.
Many in society are currently campaigning for the “naming and shaming” of pedophiles, or child sex offenders. Forget this crusade (at least for the moment), there is a far more imminent and devastating threat on your doorstep.
Facebook users are usually young in general, the biggest group undoubtedly being the (under) 18 to 25 group.
Unfettered, discreet access to children via social networks means that it is all too often inhabited by many people we wouldn’t like our children to know of, let alone interact with.
Sometimes, it can be us as parents that unwittingly set of a chain reaction of events.
April Jones (5) – September 2012
April Jones was a five year old from Wales.
The case has been well publicised in the UK and earlier this week Mark Bridger was found guilty of her murder.
During the trial it was exposed the Bridgers laptop was not only full of child pornography, featuring under age girls but that he had taken a unhealthy interest in April and her sister, downloading their pictures from Facebook, nine days before her tragic death.
Now, the murder of this innocent young girl may have taken place anyway – no one can say for sure – but the access to pictures of your children through social networking sites can mean that they insert your children into their sick fantasies and develop and unhealthy, and potential deadly, interest in your child.
I don’t think there is one parent that would, in the real world, hand over pictures of their primary school children to a pedophile. Yet, by placing pictures of your children and distributing them on a worldwide network you are potentially doing this not just once, but millions of times.
It is well known, by people in the IT and legal professions, that pedophiles and child sex offenders use the Internet to gather, distribute, share and trade pictures of children that they find online – including, with an alarmingly increasing rate, pictures found on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Murder and pedophilia are of course enough to make most parents want to deactivate their childrens Facebook immidately, possibly to even consider removing all instances of computing technology from their house completely.
Not only does social media provide a danger from outsiders, but it also, disproportionately among young people, can be used to make your child hurt themselves.
Carolina Picchio (14) – May 2013
Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far back to find the latest social networking related child suicide either. The same three days in fact that we had to look back for a social networking related child murder.
Again, another day, another country, another typical teenager.
Along with the use of mobile phones, social networking websites (Facebook, in this case) was used to undertake a campaign of cyberbullying against a teenage girl in Italy.
After splitting up with her boyfriend, his friends thought it would be good to use an upsetting video shot at a recent party, where Carolina was looking a bit worse for wear, to bully her. This video was then widely circulated by said ex boyfriend and friends.
Along with a campaign of upsetting, abusive and disturbing messages, this all-to-familiar action of this teens social group ended up leading to hear leaping out of her families fourth storey apartment window to her death.
On the day of her death she received at least 2,600 vulgar messages via social media.
The sheer power of the danger of social networking is not just limited to children as well – it is catching more and more adults out.
Melissa Huggins-Jones – May 2013
Melissa Huggins-Jones went through a divorce to escape her partner.
She moved states to get away from her ex, but unfortunately, although this may have been enough in the 90’s to escape from an ex who won’t take no for an answer, sadly today it is not.
We can move our homes to move ourselves out of harms way, but in the Internet age this can be a faux sense of security that can lead to our downfall.
While we may move homes, we don’t usually at the same time move Facebook profiles. In fact, even if we did delete and recreate a new profile, it’s probably not that hard to track down the new profile using a small amount of time and a cursory Facebook search – anyone who knows any piece of personal information about you can use it to track you down on the information superhighway.
Her ex-husband wouldn’t have had any where near as much chance of tracking her down in the pre-Internet days. But as social networks continue to integrate more easily and readily into our daily lives than ever before, their use as a tool to stalk and track someone down have never been more real.
Fearing that her ex-husband was indeed actively using Facebook to track her movements she deleted her page completely three days before her death.
Unfortunately, by this time the damage was already done. Enough information was already revealed to an evidently violent ex.
To sum up….
I imagine most of you reading this article will have been extremely skeptical about the headline of this article. Hopefully now, I have managed to make it clear how social networking can, has been and will continue to be a major harmer of our children – it is rapidly becoming the primary one.
Even if your family is lucky enough that your child doesn’t become a victim of social media, they may indeed become the instigator of a criminal offence (unwittingly) through their use of social media.
In the case of Carolina Picchio the Italian legal system is not only considering taking action against the social network in question – but against the ‘teens’ involved in the cyber bullying – looking into charges of ‘Instigating sucide’ and ‘distributing pedopornography’ – both extremely serious crimes (as if you need me to tell you).
The only way to protect your child from the imminent danger that they are in on social networks is to forbid them to use them until they are at least in adulthood – and probably by which time they will be better equipped to deal with the dangers lurking round every corner.
Personally, I’d recommend the age of 21. Although parents may struggle to carry on the influence of their rules beyond the teenage years.
Please, please, please take one message from this article, if nothing else:
Social Networking – Don’t Die Of Ignorance