Social media has really grown very popular with people in the 21st century. The hard thing here is that it has grown equally popular with kids. However, sadly enough, social media can turn out to be very harmful at times, if not used with proper care. Also, the online world can get very disturbing for kids and even adolescents.
The impact of social media on the youth might also turn out to be bad. Many questions arise in this regard. Why is social media bad for kids? What exactly are the dangers of social media for youth? What is the appropriate age for social media? This article endeavors to answer such and other related questions on social media safety for kids.
Social media surely came as a savior, making distant communication as easy as typing away a few keys. Especially now, when we are all confined to our houses, seeking respite from the pandemic, social media is the only option that we have in order to connect with friends and family.
In India, it all started with the launch of Friendster.com, back in 2002. It was the first social media platform that created a buzz in India, even before Facebook and Twitter came into being. Later, the same year, Microsoft released LinkedIn and soon gained popularity as a social platform for professionals and corporate. Finally, in 2004, Mark Zuckerburg came up with TheFacebook.com and the social media game changed since then.
As Facebook gradually grew popular, it started adding on many new features to interest people and now, Facebook is the most popular social media platform, also owning other big platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp. After the popularity of Facebook, another social media platform, Twitter, was launched two years later in 2006.
The popularity of social media in India remains unmatched. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp are now commonly used by over 448 million of the Indian population. It is no wonder that children, too, get drawn to social media from a young age.
It is currently an ongoing trend for even babies to have social media accounts. The first thing that many of the Gen-Z parents do is create a social media account for their newborns. These kids are made to do photoshoots and pose for videos from a young age. It is all completely okay if the parents keep managing their child’s account on their own, as it is very dangerous to allow kids to do the same. But have you ever wondered how it impacts them?
If the kids get too familiar with social media, they will want to try it out on their own. A recent study revealed that more than 70% of the kids aged 8-17 years are actively operating their own social media accounts. Out of these numbers, 41% of Internet usage is through desktops, 36% through laptops, and 27% through smartphones. Among these children, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest are the most used social media platforms.
Social media may not always be a safe space for kids. Sure, it will seem like a happy place where they can share photos and earn praises, but there’s more to the online world. The impact of social media on youth may not always be positive.
Below stated are some of the dangers of social media for youth, and how it can turn out to be a dangerous place for them.
Oversharing: In their enthusiasm for using social media, children often end up oversharing information. However, oversharing sensitive information can lead to many dangerous consequences.
Cyber Bullying: People online are not always kind and considerate of the other person. They bully people online with negative remarks and comments, leading to deterioration in children’s mental health.
Catfishing: Catfishing is a term used to denote people that are not who they pretend to be. Many people pretend to be somebody else and may try to obtain sensitive information from your child, in disguise.
Privacy Controls: Studies reveal that only 63% of children have privacy controls turned on. The other section of children is at risk like disclosing their location, falling prey to identity thefts, etc.
Inappropriate Messages: Many creeps on social media don’t think twice before sending off an inappropriate or offensive message. This can be very scary or uncomfortable for children.
This is one of the most debated questions on the Internet. Also, the answers to this question are infinite and unending. As such, it can get really tricky to determine the appropriate age for social media.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and others take 13 as the age to be allowed to use social media. But when really can we tell that a child is ready to be using social media?
Honestly speaking, there is no right age to start using social media. It is all a question of maturity, of how they will be able to handle the Internet. To begin with, kids need to attain maturity to be able to use social media safely, to keep the information that they share safe. Now, the age of attaining maturity is not the same in every kid. Hence, it is upon parents to observe their kids up close before allowing them to be active on social media, with some supervision, of course.
However, cases of children using social media in secrecy, without letting their parents know, are also pretty common. To avoid such situations, parents should maintain transparency with their kids. Inform them of the dangers of social media, of why you are so concerned about them using social media. Earn their trust so that they can confide in you and they will surely come around.
Educating kids about the world of social media is the first step in making social media a safe space for them. It is important for kids to know what kind of content they are going to be expecting there before they actually go on to use any social media platform. The dos and don’ts of social media should also be made aware to the children.
Here are some other safety measures that children should be taught in order to be using social media.
Being Nice: Teach your children to be nice on the Internet. Make it clear that they should never be mean and hurt other people. It helps in making the Internet a safe place, while also preventing your children from ending up as cyberbullies.
Privacy Settings: Help your child understand the privacy settings of the platform that they use. Explain to them the necessity of turning on privacy controls and the importance of shielding their posts from strangers.
Sharing Posts: It is essential that you make your child aware of the difference between sharing and oversharing. Also, make sure that they think twice before making any kind of posts on the Internet.
Making Friends: Let it be known to your kid that being friends with random strangers on the Internet is not at all safe. Ensure that they send and respond to friendship requests only from people that they know in real life.
Avoiding Questionnaires: Inform your kids of fake advertisements of giveaways and other such stuff on social media. When clicked on, these sites might ask for some sensitive information, and hence, are better to be avoided.
Along with all of these safety tips, it is also important to ensure that your child does not end up spending most of their time on social media. You can also set some simple ground rules to ensure that your child is safe on the Internet, or even on the phone.
So, at what age did you give your child a phone?