In our current world where technology has been incorporated into nearly every aspect of our lives, screen time has been a major concern for children and their development. However, another facet of the technology concern is the effect social media has on impressionable, developing minds. While we often immediately focus on the negative, it’s important to note there are positives to the social media experience, even for children.
What are the positives of social media for children?
- Connecting with others! Being able to find like-minded individuals from other cities, states, or countries can be a rewarding experience for children
- Digital Literacy! Social media usage can help children learn and develop skills that can be applied to school and work later in life
- Creativity! The designing aspects of profiles, videos, graphics and more can be a creative outlet for children
- Mental Health! The socialization aspect of social media, whether they are socializing with family or friends, can offer children a sense of connection especially during quarantine
While each of these benefits sounds great, it seems each one should also offer a disclaimer due to the potential for dangerous scenarios when children are interacting on social media. So…
What are the dangers of social media for children?
- Strangers! It can often be difficult to determine exactly who is on the other end of the social media interaction. It is important for parents to monitor who their children are “friends” with online.
- Inappropriate content! There are so many images, videos and posts today that have rough language, sexual themes, hate speech, and violence. It is important for parents to utilize parental controls and monitor their children’s activities online.
- Cyberbullying! Bullying is prevalent in school and in other activities children participate in, so it’s important to remember social media can be an extension of those situations and cyberbullying can not only happen but be truly damaging. Tomorrow’s blog will discuss this more.
- Data breaches! It is important for parents to educate their children on the hazards of sharing sensitive information online.
These risks may seem to outweigh the benefits, so parents need to discuss and make a plan that is best for their family. However, it is important for parents to know that an outright social media ban may not be an effective solution. If a child is restricted at home, they may attempt to access certain websites or apps when they are at school or at a friend’s house when they are away from the watchful eyes of their parents. Without being educated on the dangers of social media, these children could unwittingly encounter these dangers without the knowledge of how to handle those scenarios.
When coming up with a social media policy for your family, consider the education aspect as well as usage guidelines, rules for posting or commenting, and privacy protection. A solid social media plan can potentially allow children the opportunity to have a safe, fun experience using social media, while eliminating the risky scenarios as much as possible.
For some tips on how to teach children about social media and how to use it safely, check out this article from KidsHealth.org!