How Social Media is Changing Kids
Social media. The internet. Smartphones and tablets. Laptops.
If you look in the average child’s book bag, from 5th grade on up, you are apt to find one of these technological devices hidden beneath an archaic folder or school book. Today’s kids have access to nearly everything online – and with such social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – they are having an effect on our children.
But is this effect positive? As a mother of 4 girls, who regularly patrols my kids’ online presence, I am not so sure.
For one thing, being ‘in the know' and constantly updated about the going ons of other people, many of whom they don’t really know, tends to make many kids feel like they are have nots. It can be difficult to hear the inflated stories of vacations and parties online that make it look like everyone else in the world is having the time of their life, except for your child. Additionally, gone are the days when kids tried hard NOT to make others feel excluded. The online diaries that kids keep seem to make a point to throw everything they do in the face of other kids. And it’s easier than ever to bully one another under the pretense of too much information.
Aside from that, a study from the University of New Hampshire showed that online social media is quickly taking over what used to be considered ‘boob tube' time, which just a decade ago was heralded as the demise of our generation.
In other words, kids are getting lazy. And around 7 out of 10 kids say they would feel lost without their phones, and check their media devices at least twice per hour. Today’s tween or pre-teen would rather sit around perusing the internet than going outside to ride a bike. Online games and apps and social media connections are quickly replacing ‘real life' and real friendships, plus exercise and everything else.
In our home, we have rules about being online. Phones are turned off and put up at a certain time of day. They aren’t allowed at the dinner table. There are no passwords on any account online or otherwise that Mom doesn’t know about, and the kids are all privy to me checking their phones at random times and reading every text, tweet, and status update. Plus, if I see things on their profile, or on their Facebook timeline that I don’t find appropriate, I make sure the pages or apps – or people – are banned. We also have an open dialogue about the negative effects of posting pictures of themselves or others online – and we talk about using good judgment.
Additionally, perhaps the most dramatic negative effect of online media for kids is that they aren't learning how to develop appropriate relationships with others. I tell my kids, “If it’s something that you would not say to a person’s face – or wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about in person – then you should not put in online, or in a text.”
Kids are having disagreements and trying to work things out over text messaging. They are breaking up over Twitter. They are discussing things without the benefit of human emotion found only in words and facial expressions – and often getting their messages misconstrued. And, they have a false sense of bravery when it comes to dealing with someone over social media compared to in person.
What are they going to do when they grow up? Text their boss and tell them they quit? Facebook message their husband or wife and tell them their problems?
The reality is that we won't see the long term effects of social media on youth for years and years. However, the disconnect is already evident and happening. Kids are disconnecting from reality in lieu of an easier way to communicate and manage relationships. And this is sort of frightening when you consider just how unsure youngsters are of life to begin with.
In my opinion, parents need to set some rules and boundaries. No matter how old your child is, you need to be policing their online profiles and forms of communication. My theory is that as long as I pay for it – it belongs to me. Sure, I afford them some privacy, but I also hold them to high expectations when it comes to how they treat others and how much time they spend on their phones or devices. So far, they haven’t raised a maternal eyebrow.
What about you? Do you think that social media is going to have a positive or negative effect on this technologically savvy generation?
Image via iStock