Copmment: Parents have responsibility to deal with it

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These last few days have been troubling ones for parents who worry about the impact of social media on their children’s lives.

And, let’s face it, which parents don’t worry about the pitfalls that can await once their child gets their own mobile phone?

The NekNomination phenomenon has shown once again what a strong pull sites like Facebook can have for young people.

It takes age and experience to learn that something that seems like harmless fun when friends are raving about it online can soon turn badly wrong.

Our report today on the growing popularity and acceptance of sexting among children as young as 11 is just another example of the same problem.

It is not, of course, the technology that is at fault, but the ways in which it can be used – and abused – that we need to be wary about.

The big difference between the playground gossip and high jinks of previous generations and the risks facing today’s social media tuned-in youngsters is how quickly and badly things can go wrong.

Whereas indiscreet flirting five, ten or 40 years ago might lead to nasty rumours, an inappropriate photo falling into the wrong hands today can be shared around the school in seconds.

That is the knowledge that we need to impress on our children. And while schools have a role in doing this, the main responsibility lies with parents.

While most parents are never likely to be as tech savvy as their children, they must not be left miles behind, unaware of the risks that youngsters face in today’s ever-changing world.

Controls can be set on phones up to a certain age, but the reality is that children cannot be protected for ever from these dangers –and must be prepared for protecting themselves.

Charities such as Children 1st and the NSPCC can offer good advice on how to do it, but those awkward conversations cannot be avoided.