If only there were a simple, clear answer to this question. But each child is different, and most children will find ways to use social media whether they have permission or not. Currently, 95 percent of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 are present on social media. And, even with minimum age requirements, another 40 percent of kids between 8 and 12 are also regularly scrolling, clicking, liking, and sharing.
This is part of the reason why many apps offer parental controls and parental monitoring tools. Even so, factors like maturity and mental health status are just as important to consider.
Some of What Parents Must Know About Social Media
Social Media Creates a Divide Between Real and Online Life
Full-grown adults can lose track of time when they’re online. That divide is even greater for young folks. If parents don’t play a major role in regulating this situation, their kids can:
- Become sedentary
- Lose touch with the natural world
- Develop unhealthy sleeping patterns
- Struggle with identifying AI, deep fakes, doctored images, and more
Too Much, Too Soon
Once a child is on their phone without supervision, they will almost certainly encounter content that is not for their age group. For example, pornography is easily accessible, and exposure to it can have deleterious effects on a child’s cognitive development.
On top of that, social media literally trains users to strive for the “reward” of likes. Again, everyone can struggle with this, but young people can have their perceptions altered at a very vulnerable time of their lives.
Social media operates via algorithms. This approach can perpetuate lies, hate speech, sexism, racism, and more. In studies, more than half of teens are unable to identify fake news. The long-term implications of this are painfully obvious.
Some Kids Are More Vulnerable
If you click on a link, the algorithm will feed you more links like it. So, if your child is struggling mentally and looks up information, they may find themselves bombarded with articles and videos that reinforce their problems.
What Can Parents Do to Make Smart Choices?
Monitor and Control
As touched on above, there are digital tools parents can use. It may feel less than ideal to take draconian steps, but after perusing the potential downsides, it’s necessary. The key is to do this while communicating with your child. Make the process transparent, and be sure to explain why you’ve taken such steps.
Encourage Kids to Develop Face-to-Face Social Lives
Keep them motivated to have real-life meet-ups, attend events in person, and participate in activities like sports and games.
Teach Them How to Fact-Check and Maintain Privacy
Make certain they know you’re available to help answer questions and discern between fact and fiction. Also, emphasize that not everyone online has good intentions. Therefore, it is critical that your child understands not to share anything with strangers. Again, if they’re unsure, urge them to talk with you about it.
Stand up to Bullies
Help your children feel safe by teaching them what bullying looks like. Clarify how urgent it is to report this kind of behavior along with the presence of inappropriate content.
Lead By Example
Your children are watching you. So, be a role model by using technology wisely and respectfully. Don’t be the one staring at a screen during a family gathering.
This is Uncharted Territory
Parents from previous generations did not have to worry about these kinds of issues. If you feel overwhelmed and confused, we invite you to reach out for guidance. The stakes are high, and you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.