Social Media: What Parents Need to Know

If you wonder…

Social Media header

Q. Exactly, what is Social Media?

Today, we live in a digital world! Social media involvement is a prominent activity among children and adolescents – they are being introduced to technology and the internet as early as age 3. Any website that that allows social interaction, including gaming sites and virtual worlds is considered a social media site. There are benefits to this interaction, but as with all good things there are also major concerns when parents are unaware of the nature of social media since not all sites are healthy environments.

 Q. What’s out there, in this social media -so to speak- world?

      Simple. Everything is out there! All the more reason, parents should be aware! Most all that’s in a child’s physical world- friends, fun, learning, and influence for an example- is also present in their virtual world and it plays an important role in the lives of many young people. Some of the top Social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Musical.ly, Snapchat, ooVoo and even video sites like YouTube, Vine, and this list seems to continuously grow daily.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that sixty percent of children between the ages of 13 and 17 have at least one profile on a social media networking site and many spend at least two hours per day on the site. Children are visiting these sites to socialize with their friends and family, make new friends, to connect with classmates, share music, share videos, and stay “in the know”. Their online life seems to have become just as important as their offline life. Media sites are places where many who are unpopular at school are accepted online; a place where each child has their own “space”, “page”, or individual identity and is able to freely express themselves and their feelings through online methods such as blogging; connect with others, and support one another by building online communities.

Social media can also pose a risk, particularly when parents are uninformed or do not understand the possible hazards.  It is important to be aware of other possibilities that youth may face when utilizing social media- for an example, exposure to cyber-bullying, inappropriate advertisement which are not age appropriate, privacy issues, and vulnerability to predatory adults to name a few.

Then, you feel…

Okay, I’m starting to understand! Tell me more…

social media BodyIn the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it prohibits websites from collecting information from children younger than 13 years of age without parental permission. For this reason many sites mirror COPPA in their terms and conditions, and youth must be at least age 13 in order to setup a social media account. In the event you give approval, be sure to look over and become familiar with the sites before giving your approval and most importantly, be sure that your adolescent is mature enough to handle the web content.

A part of teen development includes gradually beginning to become more independent, self-sufficient, and attempting to find their way or where they fit into the world. In doing this, teens seek to gain acceptance from their peers. Social media is a platform for children to do this, but you must be aware that your child can also be rejected, or “de-friended” on social media sites which could be very hurtful and harmful to their self-esteems, ego, and cause them to suffer from symptoms of depression- researchers are calling it Facebook depression. Because peer interaction and acceptance is important to youth, and even necessary, this sort of depression can lead youth to becoming socially isolated and cause them to seek solace in other sites that may promote unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors.

I am not saying that social media is bad; however, I am saying that it has the potential to have a negative impact when utilized by youth without proper parental guidance and knowledge. Understand that your youth’s online life is an extension of their off-line lives. It is essential that you participate in both their worlds –online, and off. To do this, you must make certain that there is no knowledge or technical gap between you and your child. If you are going to allow your child to become involved in social media, acquire the knowledge and technical skills necessary to help make social media a positive experience.

Now, you ask…

Q. So, what do I need to do? And, where do I start?

Three Easy steps:

ONE.      Become technologically knowledgeable, so that you can then educate your child and ensure that they are properly using social media.

TWO.    Talk to your child prior to allowing them to begin using social media- discuss what can be done and what cannot be done. Take this opportunity to set expectations, to establish ground rules for using it, to be sure your child understands what to/what not to post. Also, explain the necessary privacy measures that are to be taken to ensure safety.

THREE.  Be an online friend to your child so that you can monitor her postings, friends, and activity. Remember, you are the parent and your online relationship with your child is just as important as your offline relationship.

Works Cited

Gwenn schurgin O’Keefe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and Council on Communicationis and Media. “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” PEDIATRICS, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011: 800-803.

Stewart, Rebecca F. WebMD, Health & Parenting, Social Media: What Parents Must Know. December 19, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/social-media-and-tweens-teens (accessed November 01, 2015).

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