Kids & Social Media

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Fact: According to a 2010 study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Today’s teens spend more than 7 1/2 hours a day consuming media- watching TV, listening to music, surfing the web, social networking, and playing video games”. (For more great info on digital age kids you can check out the rest of the Washington Post article here)

You also have to factor in that most of those 7.5 hours spent on social media are probably unsupervised.

I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to social media. Looking at it from a business perspective, social media is one of the most effective tools there is. I am a musician and I have a non-profit so using social networking sites to advertise my music and connect with people through my ministry is such a great thing. I save a huge amount of money but my advertising is still as effective. Win-win.

However, considering social media from a personal perspective, I see pros but also many, many cons. Social media allows me to connect with friends and keep up with distant family. I can read popular news articles on my feed and follow my favorites celebrities. But I also see the toll social media can have on a person. These sites have become a breeding ground for narcissism and self absorption. AKA #selfies among other posts and pictures.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with posting the occasional selfie; that’s not the issue. The problem is that social media sites are not simply networking sites anymore. We are actually living in a virtual world. As a culture we have become focused on posting everything. It becomes an obsession. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I do want to bring to light this obsession we have in our culture. I do not think social media in itself is “evil”. Like many tools, I believe social media is what we make of it.  I have experienced the negative effects as have others ; the youngest of us are easy prey.

Did you know you actually have to be a certain age to create some social media accounts? Unfortunately many ignore that rule completely and create accounts anyway. I strongly believe that no person under the age of 13 should have social media and when this child/teen is over 13 their profiles/phones/technology should be very closely monitored. Why? Several reasons.

1. Distractions. Social media is a wonderful and very efficient way to waste time. I know from personal experience 😉 I have a 9 year old brother so I see how little of an attention span children have which leads me to believe there really is no reason to add more distractions to their life. If the kid/teen is 13 or over there needs to be boundaries and rules for their “social media time”.

There are 24 hours in a day and about 8 are spent sleeping. That only leaves 16 hours to actually do things and live life. Going back to my opening statistic, kids spend 7.5 hours a day consuming media. In other words, kids are spending almost half of their waking hours tuned into an electronic device. So my question is- how much of these 7.5 hours are spent during time kids are supposed to be learning in school or finishing homework? How much is spent during time they are supposed to be studying? Spending time with family? Connecting with the real world and having IN PERSON conversations?

I understand the desire kids have to be on social media. It is a method to stay current in a world gone completely digital. All I am saying is that my parents had to give me boundaries in middle and high school which helped me to stay focused. The rule was, no internet or texting friends until I was completely done with regular school work and homework. It was a great incentive because I was able to solely focus on my school while working toward a “prize”. Contrary to popular belief, social media is a privilege not a right. 🙂 When I realized that, I began to appreciate these sites instead of obsessing over it.

2. Inappropriate content. According to a study funded by McAfee (An online security company) 70% of teens hide their internet behavior from their parents. What exactly comprises this internet behavior? Accessing violent or pornographic content, hacking into social network and email accounts, looking up answer to tests on their phone, etc. (For more info from this study, you can find the CNN article here)

What is even worse than kids who purposefully look up inappropriate content, are the kids who come across it by accident. I know it has happened to me several times. I’m 20 so I know how to handle it; I unfollow the account or unlike the page or report it. Most social media sites give you the option to report inappropriate or abusive content which is good. But unfortunately once you have seen something, you cannot un-see it. Which again, is why parents of young children need to be aware of this serious “con” of social media. Even if you have pre-teens or teens who should know better, you still need to be aware of exactly what they are looking at. For instance, keep their laptop in the living room where everyone can see, know their phone passcode, follow/friend them on all their accounts. It’s not snooping, it is common sense. It is absolutely necessary to protect those who are not emotionally mature enough to protect themselves. All children need accountability.

3. Cyber-Bullying/Talking To Strangers. According to the i-Safe Foundation-“Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet. Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.” (Find the remainder of the article at here)

So, what exactly is cyber-bullying? puts it this way- “Cyber bullying involves using technology, like cell phones and the Internet, to bully or harass another person.” But the thing is that this type of bullying can take on many forms. They go on to describe them as:

“Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone. Spreading rumors online or through texts, posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages. Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages. Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person. Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet. Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person.”

Scary stuff right? It honestly breaks my heart to know that teens and adults alike could take advantage or harass other people like this. But it happens all the time. The statistic I shared a few paragraphs ago said that over half the victims of cyber-bullying do not share it with their parents. Which again, breaks my heart. It is difficult enough to endure bullying; I cannot imagine facing bullying all alone and not having anyone stand up for you.

Going back to the report funded by McAfee, it says that 12% of teens have met face-to-face with someone they met over the internet. We all hear horror stories about people meeting people they have met online and unfortunately some of these people are kids and teens. Which is even scarier because STRANGER DANGER IS A REAL THING. So again, please pay attention to who your kids are talking to and where they go. Put a phone location tracker on their devices if need be in the event that they get themselves in a “stranger danger” situation. Again, not snooping, it is being a loving and caring parent using common sense. Do not let your child tell you otherwise.

I could go on and on about what I have seen and experienced with social media, but I am already over a thousand words and have thrown a lot of information at you. The bottom line is to:  (1. Have healthy conversations with your kids about the good and bad components of social media.  (2. Set boundaries when it comes to consuming any form of media.  (3. And lastly, “check in” on your kids’ accounts and social media usage. Children and teens are savvy nowadays with technology because they have grown up immersed in it, for them, it is like jumping on their bikes…no big deal. For adults it can be quite intimidating, to you it might be like taking calculus all over again. I know it can be a lot to consider, but try your best to stay current on social media and technology for your kids’ sake.

If you have any questions or simply want to be pointed in the right direction to informative articles with similar statistics and information which I have shared, please let me know. I would be happy to provide it.

Until next week!

© Bailey Kennon and Ill Wait Blog, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bailey Kennon and Ill Wait Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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