As a child of the 80’s I had the opportunity to see the world change drastically. I’ve gone from playing basic maze games on the “family PC” located in my father’s office to owning dozens of electronic devices that allow my family to connect with people all over the world. This new virtual world of Social Media has transformed every aspect of our lives – some might even say that Social Networking has become the livelihood of our young generation.
There is an estimated 20 million minors who actively use Facebook in the U.S. and although Facebook has implemented a minimum age requirement they are finding themselves having to tackle a serious problem with children “illegally” infiltrating their networks. It has been reported that 7.5 million of these young users in are under the minimum age requirement of thirteen with 66% of them being under the age of ten.
We are living in a digital era and our children are seeking to connect as well. I’m definitely not saying that that we should allow preschoolers to interact with adults on Facebook – but what I’m saying is that there are safe and reliable alternatives out there. An article by parenting.com identified Webkinz.com and ClubPenguin.com as safe alternatives for children kindergarten age through early school age and Whyville.com and Dgamer.com for elementary and middle school age children. With games carefully designed by age group many websites have made it their mission to create safe and cooperative learning environments for children.
My daughter, age nine, signed up for a Club Penguin account about two years ago after her father and I took the time to review the site. Before she was authorized to begin networking we received an email from Club Penguin requesting that we reviewed and agree to the terms and conditions and also guided us to the site privacy settings where we opted for “safe chat”. These sites are equipped with the necessary safeguards to ensure that we can work together to assist them through their childhood quests. As we all know Children learn through exploring and what better way to do that then surrounded by your peers and guided by us. When you think about it seems almost cruel to deny them that opportunity.
Born in Togo, West Africa, I came to Canada at the age of four and my parents were often reminded of the necessity for me to adapt to my new environment and learn to interact with those in it. We need to understand that the world is evolving at a spectacular rate and it is our responsibility as parent to take the necessary steps to assist our children in what has now become an essential developmental step for them. Taking the time to do research and educate ourselves will prevent our children from becoming prey. Change is inevitable and is neither bad nor good –It is our approach to change that makes a world of difference.