The Tech Defense: The Tools that Young Girls Need to Protect Themselves on Social Media

[By Olimata Kah]

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are the most used social media platforms. I can say with the utmost confidence that when these applications were being created by their respective creators, they had no idea that their creations would be used for wicked purposes.

These apps and sites were meant to bring together people from across the globe while at the same time making communication cheaper and easier. However, there are those that have changed these helpful tools into the devil’s tools thus making the social media space very difficult to navigate. A case in point is cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?

There is something called cyberbullying. It is the verbal, emotional and mental abuse that one person directs to another via the internet. This happens every single day especially amongst youngsters. According to available data, teenage girls suffer more from cyberbullying than any other demographic grouping.

Almost every teenager has a digital footprint—an online life. It isn’t a bad thing but some of them have turned into bullies who victimize their peers and causing a lot of psychological problems for the victims. All this when they are just supposed to be KIDS!

How many times have we heard of children committing suicide?! Too many times!! So then the question to ask is how to protect your daughters from cyberbullying and online trolls. As a parent or a guardian, it is your responsibility to keep your children safe even online. But how?

#1.Talking to Your Daughters

This generation is growing up in a time where beauty standards are determined by Instagram (IG) models with their surgically-enhanced bodies and extreme shape wear.

Why am I talking about this? It is because of body image. For the women, do you remember being a teenager? Do you remember looking at yourself and finding faults everywhere? Some adults still do it today let alone the teenage girls.

Talk to your daughter about her body and the changes she is going through. Edify her with words of encouragement. “You’re beautiful!” These are words your daughter should get used to hearing from you. At first, she’ll feel like you are just saying it because she is your daughter and you are her mom but overtime, she will believe it. Compliment her features and tell her how proud you are of her! Create a positive body image within her mind.

It is very hard for a highly confident person to be moved by what some troll sitting somewhere behind a computer says about them. Confidence is the very first tool of defense, and as such, you need to fortify your kids with all the possible confidence they can get. They’ll need it more often than you’d imagine.

#2. Censorship

Parental guidance hardly works these days. Teenagers have a way to bypass it. So you must teach your daughters how to censor their online feed, to check who they are allowing on their accounts and who they are following.

If a young teenage girl with an impressionable mind pays most of her attention to IG models—most of whom are carbon copies of Eurocentric beauty—but she doesn’t look like the model, don’t you think that is going to influence the way she sees and loves herself? This is one of the reasons why we must teach our daughters to be very careful with whom they interact online.

#3. Being Weary of Strangers

Another part of censorship is the “block” and “unfriend” button! Every single social media application has this as a part of its settings. So if your daughter is being disturbed by someone online, help her block the person and if need be, report the account!

Advice to Parents

Make sure you know every single one of your daughter’s friends. This will give you a picture of who your child is outside of the home. And do not hesitate to step in and cut off a bad friend. Remember, you are the parent NOT the best friend.

And lastly, teach your daughters to put themselves on a digital time-out sometimes—a “digital fast”. Too many of us are so addicted to our digital devices that when we wake up in the morning, the first thing we do is to go online!

Too many of us seek validation online. Whether our tweets get a lot of likes or if our pictures on Instagram have the “regular” number of likes and comments. Literally putting our mental and emotional health in the hands of complete strangers! People who would never think about us if we didn’t pop up on their timeline.

Some of us are on social media platforms for the clout—just trying to trend on Instagram with racy pictures that have nothing to do with our daily lives. I employ you, mothers and fathers, to pay close attention to your daughters and continue to arm them with the defense tools necessary for them to be protected whilst online.  You owe them that.