The Pros & Cons Of Children On Social Media
contributed by Jennifer Smith
In our social media-charged society, it’s easy to assume that children should not be on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Concerns range from safety to attention span to diminished ‘real life’ social skills to posture, blue light, and other dangers of screen time.
Our newsfeed is full of horrifying stories of when social media goes wrong. We also have eyes of our own and can see the ways tech-addiction can change children, so it’s a natural inclination to want to protect them. Ironically, social media channels are often the reason for news stories gaining the traction they do, yet we want to shield our children from this kind of vitality and momentum–and the related dangers that exist online.
We turn to social media to understand social issues that tell us that social media is bad for us and even worse for children. This is how we fall into the trap of thinking of social media as ‘bad’ instead of examining its usage and effects and making adjustments accordingly.
Social media has obviously also become a major part of marketing for companies. A good social media marketing company will spend time responsibly studying online user behavior to find the right demographics.
This can be a fantastic advantage for your child to learn about healthy and eco-friendly new products and services that educate them and improve their lives, but also provided marketers a direct path to your child through data, content marketing, social media ads, popular YouTubers peddling products without making it clear that’s what they’re doing, and more.
The Cons Of Children On Social Media: Let’s Get the Bad Out of the Way
Cons: Identity theft, stalking, bullying, self-image, artificial ‘peer sets’, tendency towards the superficial
The harsh reality is that our children are exposed to a lot when they use social media.
This often the reason why social networks require children to be 13 years of age in order to create an account. Some parents choose to falsify birth dates to allow their child to use it sooner, which can work with close supervision provided that close supervision doesn’t lapse.
Some children falsify birth dates on their own without parents being aware. Of course, the assumption is that at 13, children are at the beginning stages of being able to process what they are exposed to. As parents, we need to base that on our individual child and their habits and maturity and experience, not the date on their birth certificate.
Are children exposed to increased danger online? In some ways, yes. Bullying has become easier with peers and adults able to create anonymous accounts and target their victims. There is a dark side of the internet that scares parents, and rightly so. After setting appropriate boundaries with your child and close monitoring and persistent check-ins and reinforcing, you can help protect them from falling prey to either of these situations.
The Pros Of Children On Social Media: Yes, There is Good News
Pros: working knowledge of digital patterns; exposure to ‘fake news’ (this is good if they learn to discern the difference); possibility of healthier connections/role models if in a toxic situation at home; accessible ‘networking’ as they get older
For our children–so-called ‘digital natives’–social media has existed for as long as they can remember. Children who are taught early on how to digest and use social media in a healthy way are children who can be more likely to use it responsibly in the future.
Successful users of social media will self-educate and be able to discern between fact and bias and plain ‘fake news’ much easier than the previous generations. They are more passionate about social issues and are more likely to engage in politics. They will know how to spot an internet scam much quicker and with greater ease than those of us who haven’t been online as long.
These children will also be an integral part of changing the face of marketing on the social media platform. While many people cite that these children will suffer and be unable to publicly socialize, many are finding peers who are similar to them to connect with because they’ve been required to do so their entire digital lives.
These online friendships can even turn into face to face relationships through school, extracurricular clubs, and one day, their profession. This can be especially useful for the introverted child who is able to carefully craft their online identity and means of interfacing with peers. With careful supervision and guidance, online friendships can do a lot for the ever-changing child who is struggling to find their way in the world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has gathered research regarding the pros and cons of social media usage in pre-teens and adolescents, and the risks and rewards are fairly evenly balanced. Check out their resources on discussing social media and its dangers with your teens for additional guidance on creating a conversation about internet safety.
When it comes to social media for children, there have to be boundaries in place. Children need that online and off because they carry those boundaries and their underlying assumptions into adulthood, giving them a better chance of using social media in healthier ways.
Giving children small responsibilities that grow over time–allowing them to safely experiment and fail without trauma–is crucial for their mental health, their ability to make and maintain healthy relationships in life, and their ability to see themselves based on and through how they perceive others and how others perceive them.
Social networking isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but a vital teaching tool–an ongoing and useful and informative caricature of the real world they live in.
The Pros & Cons Of Children On Social Media