hatsapp is the new playground for kids. It allows them to stay connected and interact with their friends without having to leave the comfort of their homes. The app has many features that keep kids busy, from sharing photos and videos to playing games together.

Kids are also able to use WhatsApp for group chats and even create polls or quizzes to keep everyone entertained.

When children join classes or schools the first step is to add them to a WhatsApp group. This helps the teachers to communicate with the students and also keep them updated about any new developments in the class.

Some kids make their own Whatsapp groups which depend on their hobbies and interests and others just talk about random topics.

How different is being in a WhatsApp group any different from real friends group for kids?

When Children make personal groups on WhatsApp they might pick their friends, they might add or remove a person from the group, and there might be a power struggle as they are chosen to be admin or not which happens normally in friends groups as well.

Children might pick up their favorite friend to be in a group or might just randomly add people. This can even lead to bullying as children might get excluded from the group or made fun of if they don't fit in.

Sometimes kids can be mean to each other just like they are with friends, they might exclude one person from a group or remove people with whom they are upset on the group.

So, it's not much different from real friend groups.

The Admin battle in WhatsApp groups 

Recently my son was upset when one of his close friends decided to remove him from being an admin in their WhatsApp group. This happened because he had decided not to vote in a poll created by his friend in the group.

His friend thought that he was not being supportive and had hence removed him as an admin. This sudden change in their dynamics had my son very confused and upset.

My son was very clear that he would not vote for him just to be an admin. He was also sure that he had not done anything wrong and thought that his friend should have respected his decision.

We also talked about respecting our beliefs over doing something just to please them. We had a long discussion about how it is important to stand up for what one believes in and not compromise on values.

I further explained that it was good that his friend had removed him as an admin as it had allowed him to reflect on the values he held for himself. He should not compromise his beliefs just for the sake of being accepted by anyone.

Distraction and Productivity: The constant availability of messages and notifications on WhatsApp can be a distraction, potentially affecting a child's focus, concentration, and productivity.

I always advise Adi to fix a time to talk to his friends and not hang around the messages every time.

Children need to manage their time well and not get distracted by the constant flow of messages that they might receive.

Tip to keep children safe on Whatsapp 

Understanding Kids' Motivations: Recognize that kids use social media for various reasons, including connecting with friends, sharing about their day, and expressing themselves creatively.

Take the time to understand their motivations and interests on social media.

By showing genuine interest and engaging in conversations about their online experiences, you can better support and guide them in navigating the digital landscape.

Social media comes in a variety of forms, but the goal is largely the same for kids. It serves as a “third space” for teens and tweens—an additional place outside of home and school. It’s a place where young people can “hang out,” even when they are not with their friends.-Deborah Heitner

Open Communication: Start by having open and honest conversations with your child about social media. Discuss the benefits and risks, and the importance of using it responsibly. Encourage them to share their experiences and concerns, and listen attentively to their thoughts and questions.

Adi mostly shares his wats app group experiences with me. This helps him to understand what he can and cannot do while interacting with others on whatsapp.

Screen time itself isn’t the issue, it’s how you use it. It’s like saying a knife is bad. Well, a knife is bad if you hurt somebody, but it’s great if you use it to cut up your dinner. It’s the same thing with digital technology. It’s how you use it.- Diana Graber

Developing Self-Awareness: Encourage your child to develop self-awareness when using social media. Help them understand their own emotions, values, and intentions behind their online interactions. Encourage them to reflect on how their actions may impact themselves and others.

By being aware of their own emotions and motivations, they can make more conscious choices about what they share, comment on, or engage with on social media.

Once Adi's friend decided to remove others from the group for no reason, he decided to take a stand and he did not support his friend for this unjust action.

Our discussions with kids about their technology use overwhelmingly focus on online safety at the expense of other really important conversations. Don’t misunderstand me, staying safe online is critical. But teaching online safety can’t crowd out more meaningful conversations, like what type of person we want to be online and how we can use technology to make our communities better. Just like putting on a seatbelt when you drive a car — we teach our kids that it is a requirement before anything else happens. -Richard Culatta

Respect for Others: Teach your child the importance of treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy online, just as they would in real-life interactions. Emphasize the need to avoid cyberbullying, derogatory language, or offensive behavior.

Encourage them to think before posting or commenting and to consider the potential impact of their words on others.

Privacy and Personal Information: Teach your child about the significance of protecting their personal information online.

Emphasize the importance of keeping passwords secure, avoiding sharing sensitive details such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, or school information, and being cautious about accepting friend requests or engaging with strangers.

Once one of my son's friends asked him to share everything on his desktop, he felt uncomfortable about it and hence asked me for help. I then explained to him the importance of protecting his personal information online and why people cannot ask to share such data if they don't trust each other.

Responsible Posting: Guide your child in making responsible choices when it comes to sharing content. Encourage them to think critically about what they post, considering the accuracy, relevance, and potential consequences of their posts. Teach them to obtain permission before sharing photos or personal information about others.

The thing I say most is that everything you share stays online forever. Think twice before you post anything online. Maybe even sleep on it. It’s hard because of how children are programmed to do things right at the moment. But it’s important to remember that behind every screen is a real person with real feelings. I think that can’t be said enough, either.- Diana Graber

Balancing Screen Time: I believe helping kids to be responsible instead of setting screen limits, is the best way to go. I regularly have conversations with Adi about how to use his time online wisely and productively and try to encourage him to take breaks in between.

I also remind him that there are other activities offline that can help fuel creativity and exploration such as painting or learning a musical instrument.

Mentoring is much more crucial than monitoring. Monitoring is optional, but mentoring isn’t. And so, no matter whether you monitor or not, put that app on their phone or don’t, you must mentor, you must talk with them, you must listen to them and observe them and be engaged with them.- Deborah Heitner

Help children understand the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline activities. Encourage them to engage in other hobbies, physical activities, and face-to-face interactions, emphasizing that social media should complement, not replace, real-life experiences.

Leading by Example: Set a positive example by practicing good social media etiquette yourself. Children learn a lot from observing their parents' behavior, so demonstrate responsible online habits and engage in open discussions about your own experiences and challenges on social media.

In conclusion, helping kids to navigate and use the internet responsibly is important for their safety and well-being. As a parent, it's essential that you lead by example, teach good online etiquette and behavior, and encourage a healthy balance of online and offline activities. 

May 20, 2023
Digital Learning

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