Last weekend at a bridal shower, a few colleagues and I got into a conversation about our kids and social media. What struck me about our discussion was the mutual feeling that social media should be kept at arm's length from children who lack the cognitive maturity to deal with the bombardment of issues common in that arena.
And yet, as each of us shared our stories and concerns, another feeling crept into the conversation: guilt. As confident as we felt in our ability to make good decisions for our kids, we felt equality at odds with the notion that by limiting our kids' social media use, we're somehow depriving them of something: friendships, responsibility, knowledge...being cool?
No joke, the very next day I came across an article from Psychology Today on Facebook dealing with teens and social media. Here is a link to the full, original article. What I want to share with you now is my condensed take-away. If you only have ten minutes to read something about this topic, read this.
1. Social media is NOT for them. No matter how much they like it and how much their friends use it, social media was not designed for the brains and emotional maturity of children or teens. No matter how technologically savvy you teach your child to be he/she will NOT be mentally developed enough to handle all that social media demands of them as a consumer.
2. Social media is an addictive form of entertainment. Recent studies not only prove the danger of addiction to social media, it shows that the earlier a child is exposed to social media, the deeper and more ingrained the addictive patterns. Parents should be encouraged to limit or hold off on social media altogether until a child is older.
3. Social media cannot replicate actual life experience. Just because your kid has 1, 723 "friends" online doesn't mean he/she possesses the skills and abilities necessary to get along with people in the real world. I can't underscore enough the need for kids to interact with people - adults and peers - face-to-face. Yes, in-person connections sometimes feel intimidating and take time to master. However, they are CRUCIAL for a child's healthy emotional (and mental) development. (Check out #6 from the original article).
4. Social media use is a waste of precious time. I recently heard that the average tween spends 9 hours online each day. WHAT????? Nine hours? Think about that...what could YOU accomplish in nine hours? When kids spend significant amounts of time online it means they're not spending time doing other valuable things: reading, being physically active, investing in relationships, creating music or art, learning a new skill...the list is endless. This marks a gigantic waste of potential; kids' minds learn so much during this important state of development. It's the perfect time for them to explore and try new things, not spend hours up on hours a day watching kitty videos online.
Bottom line: Your kid is better off without social .media, regardless of what they or their peers may say. Delay serious usage for as long as possible. Closely monitor your child's time online, and open up a continuous conversation about what your child engages in while on the computer, tablet, or phone. Reinforce the difference between an online presence and real-life personality, and finally, set a strong example of limits with your own social media use. Your kid deserves every opportunity to grow into the amazing person he/she is meant to be. Easing off of social media will help him/her do just that.