OPINION | To the parents who don't like social media – you might not have a choice anymore

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"The ugly side of the world you’re trying to shield them from is now easily accessible with little to no effort." Photo: Getty Images
"The ugly side of the world you’re trying to shield them from is now easily accessible with little to no effort." Photo: Getty Images

As a parent myself, the passing of 15-year-old Lufuno Mavhunga broke my heart. It was a terrible reminder that I could only do so much to protect my child in this increasingly vile space.

When my little one grows up, I don't just have the daunting task of delivering the infamous 'Birds and the Bees' talk but now also one about the virtual space.

This is a space of endless possibilities, where we can escape our realities with fun memes and TikTok videos, but it's also a playground for bullies, scammers, trolls, and so much more.

I was further saddened when I saw Boity Thulo trending on Twitter after a comment MacG made about her sexuality. While many called out MacG for his inappropriate statement, another part of the audience found such content considerably funny, including the other presenters who were there with MacG.

In the same way that Lufuno tried to shield herself from the blows while the crowd just watched. Do you know what the difference between Boity and Lufuno is?

Boity, I don't doubt, is tough as hell. She had likely experienced such before and therefore prepared accordingly. And Lufuno? I don't think she had grown a 'tough skin' just yet.

These incidences make me realise how crucial it is for parents to speak to their children about the online space.

Read: How parents can support a child who comes out as trans by conquering their own fears 

It doesn't matter anymore if you like Facebook or Instagram.

If you're a parent, you should know and understand these platforms to have an idea of how you can help guide your little ones as they find their way around the virtual space.

Download the apps, see what goes on in there and understand them for yourself, because our children grow up in these new communities.

Living in a fairly decent neighbourhood and thrusting your child into all sorts of extracurricular activities to keep them busy enough or shape their mind is not enough anymore. The ugly side of the world you're trying to shield them from is now easily accessible with little to no effort.

So the next time you sit down with your child or another young starry-eyed, social-media-crazed loved one, please do, by all means, tell them about social media's absolute beauty.

How almost anything is easily accessible, how many creative and incredibly talented people made their breakthroughs to media through these platforms.

Tell them about how there is no limit to the number of friends they can have, how it’s easier to find like-minded people here than anywhere else.

Also read: Cyber-kindness and cyber-bullying in the month of love 

Don't forget about the numerous online movements that have shaped history and called big brands to order on many occasions.

But please don't forget to tell them how ugly it can get, that it can give and also take away your peace, like having a bully with you in your home and your room. It isn't just about shielding them but teaching them too.

God forbid our children will grow up to become the authors of hurtful jokes and memes in the name of trying to be funny or become one of the many victims of such.

Do you remember Keleabetse Seleka from Centurion? She was murdered by someone she met online after she went to meet him in 2017. She, too, was just 15 years old.

Children today are intelligent, capable, and creative - more than ever - but I also firmly believe that they are relatively clueless when facing many serious challenges.

We can develop policies and develop strategies to guide online behaviour, but ultimately, the grown-ups at home have a crucial role in shaping thoughts and behaviour.

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