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Best practices for safe social networking

Social networking
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Social media is a wonderful tool to help stay connected with family and friends. It has bridged distances and brought the world closer as never before. The best feature of this kind of connectivity is the pleasure derived from being able to share our lives with others and feel involved in theirs. However, as with many innovations, social networking comes with its own set of challenges, which is why moderation and caution need to be exercised at all times.

Social networking sites are online platforms where users can create a personal profile and interact with others on the same site. The idea is to connect with friends by sharing personal information and that is where, knowingly or otherwise, we can become vulnerable. The virtual world often encourages us to reveal much more about ourselves than we would if we were meeting someone in person. This makes it important to observe basic rules and guidelines to stay safe while making optimal use of technology.

Here are some of the best practices for safe social networking. These will ensure you make use of social media in the most positive way and help to eliminate risks associated with it.

  • Never disclose too much information about yourself such as contact details, your address or your daily schedule.
  • Go through the terms and conditions even if they might seem tiresome to read. Check out if there are adequate privacy measures in place and change any default settings to those that provide you with maximum security. Ideally, your profile should be visible only to your friends, and not to friends of friends.
  • Disable the geolocation feature so that details about your location are never included in your posts.
  • Make sure you are aware how to block unwanted users from connecting with you and accessing your content.
  • Pick a user name that is neutral and protect your account by using strong passwords that include upper and lower case letters, symbols and digits. It is always a good idea to change passwords regularly.
  • Watch out for any posts in which you are tagged by your friends and for any comments that might reveal unnecessary personal details about your location, routine and activities. Never post any holiday dates that might end up as a valuable resource for a burglar.
  • Guard against fake friend requests and posts from groups asking you to visit and ‘like’ their pages. Be wary of strangers on social media just as you would in the real world.
  • While commenting on posts, make it a point to remain neutral and never get into any arguments on any sensitive topics that might be construed as offensive.
  • Ensure that you have installed internet security programs on your computer and that all anti-virus software is up to date. As “malware” or malicious code spreads via the social network, be wary of links posted on your friend’s profile pages. Do not click on obscured URLs without verifying them (by using URL preview services such as expandmyurl.com or longurlplease.com) first. Once you have determined the site as genuine, use a bookmark to access that site in future.
  • Guard against hijacking of your account by looking out for any warning signs – for example, passwords not working or any logins into your account at times when you were not online. You can set up alerts that send you an email if your account was accessed from a different location, or a different device from the one you usually use.

A little prudence will go a long way in keeping your social networking account private and safe. Keep the above steps in mind while you enjoy communicating with your friends, no matter where you are in the world.

 

How to help teens resist the pressure to take drugs

Drugs
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

One of the biggest challenges for teens is withstanding peer pressure. Although a powerful force, peer pressure is not necessarily always a negative influence. It teaches teenagers how to fit in, adapt and make a meaningful contribution to their social group. Helping teenagers to distinguish between negative and positive pressures is key to them making the right choices.

So how can you ensure your teen is able to resist negative peer pressure –without alienating their peers? The single greatest concern for parents of teenagers is peer pressure that entices them into trying drugs. One impulsive step could be enough to lead them down the wrong path. But if you empower your teen with a sound values system, this can help give them the courage and conviction to make correct decisions, even if this means standing apart from the crowd.

The good news is that two recent studies found that young people, aged 11-15, have turned their backs on drink, drugs and smoking. The number of children who have tried illegal drugs has decreased by almost a half over the past 10 years. However, another study is quite alarming. It was carried out by the Crime Survey for England and Wales and reported that the number of young people aged 16 -24 that indulge in cocaine and ecstasy has gone up by 230,000 to 2.7 million.

Empower your teen to battle peer pressure

Accept your child

Children who grow up secure in the knowledge they are loved and accepted for who they are rarely submit to peer pressure, as they do not need to seek validation from the external world.

Value and appreciate their talents, and provide them with all the support and guidance they need – this will help them build healthy self-esteem.

Express affection to your child

If you display your love for your child, this strengthens your bond with them. Even though some teenagers might be bashful about displays of affection, it does make a lasting impression on their minds, whether or not they would admit it. It is this unconditional love that becomes their armour, protecting them from the influence of negative peer pressure.

Listen to your child and keep communication channels open

A child’s ability to distinguish between what is right, and what is not, begins with the parents. Investing the time and effort to talk to your teens and let them know they can talk to you about their thoughts and problems, will help them to trust you. Knowing that they have the solid support and emotional backing of their home and family eliminates the craving for superficial approval from peers.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of doing drugs

Teach them to say a firm “no!” Role play the scene with your teenager, and suggest various ways to refuse politely but firmly. At the same time, encourage them to differentiate between the person and the act, so that they do not come across as excessively self-righteous.

Ask your child for their views and encourage them to ask questions. Gauge their opinions on the topic and encourage them to be honest with you. Discuss the consequences of drugs objectively by explaining how it can take a toll on every aspect of their life. Everything that teenagers watch and listen makes an impression on their minds. So, while it is not really possible to constantly monitor what they are accessing on social media, it would be a good idea to be tuned in to their likes and interests. Look out for any unusual changes in behaviour or any unexplained mood swings. Most important of all, get them to talk to you about anything that affects them or they feel strongly about.

Peer pressure can be an overwhelming influence but it can never be stronger than the emotional stability that a loving and nurturing home provides. The role that you as a parent play in providing a secure environment for your teen to thrive and grow in will give them all the strength they need to resist the temptation to give in to peer pressure. Not only at this sensitive phase of their life, but in the future as well.

Help students differentiate between positive and negative peer influence

Peer influence
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Children spend many of their waking hours at school or engaged in extra-curricular activities and in doing so, they foster bonds with their peers. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph pointed out that a child’s friends have a significant impact on their behaviour. It further stated that popular culture, friends, and street gangs had a greater influence than their genetic make-up or the lessons they learnt at home.

With such a great influence exerted by peers, it is important for parents and teachers to safeguard children from steering towards bad behaviour. Illicit drug abuse is a particular concern. Although statistics show there has been a fall in the prevalence of drug use among students, the problem still exists. Research  also suggests that boys are generally more susceptible to drug use than girls.

In an earlier article, we have discussed how schools can create a safe and drug-free environment and the onus lies with teachers to educate students about good and negative peer influence.

Students need to be accepted at school and mix with friends. They tend to be influenced by the attitudes and lifestyles of their peers. It is normal for them to do things in their social circle which help them feel valued.  However, it is not wise to follow one’s friends blindly.

Peer influence can have negative effects

In their need to be accepted by their friends, students can often indulge in behaviours they are not comfortable with.  At a young and vulnerable age, they may fail to understand the impact of giving in to peer pressure. Help them to look out for the following signs:

Wrong decisions

Explain to children that when they feel compelled to do something they dislike, it is a bad sign. An example could be taking up a hobby or activity just because their peers do, without much thought to where their own interests lie.

Cultivation of bad habits

Peer pressure is powerful. It can force young people to do things they are not comfortable with.  It can bring about a change in attitude and lifestyle. Vey often, peer influence is the main reason why students take up drug use, alcohol, and smoking.

Loss of individuality

Peer influence may compel students to follow everything their peers do, adopting their fashion sense, hairstyle, and so on. This can lead to a child losing their originality.

Peer influence can be positive too!

Peer influence can bring about positive changes.

Adopting good habits

Peers can help others change for the better. For example, knowing that their friends are avid readers can encourage students to read and people who play sports very often inspire their friends to join in.

Losing bad habits

Peer influence can also deter other students from experimenting with drugs. Students may be persuaded to turn over a new leaf when their peers frown upon their bad habits or tell them about the damage drugs can cause.

The bottom line

Students should be made aware that the difference between positive and negative peer influence is all about the outcome and intention. If a student is convinced to do something which turns out to be good for them, the peer influence is positive. And if they are pressurised to make an unhealthy choice, the peer influence is negative.

Similarly, students need to be made aware of digital peer influence. The principles of offline peer influence apply to the online world as well.

To help protect students from negative influences online, get in touch with us today!

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