Understanding the Relationship Between Children and Social Media

By Katelynn Rosa:

We are in the age of technology, where concepts such as social media are part of our daily lives. With technology being as advanced as it is, we can access social media 24/7 with the mobile devices like tablets and cellphones. And, its not just adults who have access to this. Children can just as easily pull out their phones and post on Instagram and snap a picture for their Snapchat stories. All social media platforms have age restrictions, for example Facebook’s Terms and Services say that those “under 13 years old” cannot use its site. Still, children find a way to use these media platforms, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Social Media: The Problem

CNBC posted an article explaining that social media companies should stop allowing children to use the “like button”.

“It warns companies not to use “positive reinforcement techniques,” that encourage children to stay on social media, so the site or app can collect data on them.” – Social media firms told not to let children use the ‘like’ button in new UK proposals, CNBC

CNBS further expalined how it is the best interest of social media companies to collect data to create a personalized account, while also increasing the amount of time spent on the app or website. The “like button” enforces this, but in some ways it can do more harm than good, especially where children are concerned.

CNBC continued saying, “It can be used to lead users, particularly children, to select less privacy enhancing choices when personalizing their privacy settings. Or spend more time than they intend on a particular service.”

And according to Common Sense Media, there has been an increase in children’s screen time since 2011. The company made it apparent that children the age of 8 and under spend an average of about two-and-a-quarter hours a day with screen media, most of that time being on mobile devices. “The average amount of time spent with mobile devices each day has tripled, going from 5 minutes a day in 2011 to 15 minutes a day in 2013 to 48 minutes a day in 2017.”

According to polls conducted on Facebook and Twitter of about 40 participants, majority of people said that children under the age of 13 should not be allowed to use media like Snapchat and Instagram.

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Only 9% on Facebook agreed that children under 13 years old should be allowed to have access to social media.

With this data in mind, you would think adults would more inclined to not allowing young children to access these platforms. But according to BBC, “46% of 11-year-olds, 51% of 12-year-olds and 28% of 10-year-olds now have a social media profile.”

BBC continued to report on parental awareness of under-age limits, saying that eight in 10 parents whose children use Instagram and Snapchat were unaware of the age restriction.

CNN did a report back in 2016 saying that 80% of all teenagers (13-18) and 23% of tweens (8-12) had their own social media accounts.

Students Interacting with Media

Assumption College senior Mary Cepeda started using social media when she was 13 years old and said her parents did have some influence in her getting social media.

“In a sense, they didn’t know I had it and I didn’t want to get in trouble,” Cepeda said. She uses Facebook daily, and Cepeda thinks using it impacts her life greatly.

“[Social media] makes me feel like I’m missing out, but also allows me to be close to others.”

Shannon Grady, an Assumption College biology senior, started using Facebook when she was a sophomore in high school. “My mother encouraged me because she thought I would make more friends and have a better connection with them,” said Grady.

She mostly uses Facebook for Messenger and to scroll through her feed once or twice a week. Grady uses other social media, like Tumblr, on a daily basis.  “I think [social media] has an influence on me, but its hard to pin point exactly what it is. Exposure to political and social “norms” and other influences can cause a person to accept or become accustom to things they might not be exposed to otherwise.”

Positives?

So, with all these numbers, it can be shown that no matter what children can find a way to access social media even without parental knowledge. But there are benefits to children having access to social media too, not just bad.

Fox2Now of St. Louis spoke with Alex Gould who is a licensed social worker about the good and bad of kids on social media.

Gould found that majority of kids who used social media found it to be a positive experience. The study asked the young participants how they felt social media impacted them: “The primary responses were that it made them feel better about themselves. It lessened their feelings of depression and anxiety. It made them feel more included.”

The study even found that children who used social media gave kids the desire to not only reach out to friends and family, but to also to desire more philanthropic causes for, “an avenue of self expression, a platform for inspiration, and to connect with people with similar interests.”

What can parents do to be more aware of their children’s use of media?

Being in contact with your children is key. Have a conversation about the good and the bad of being online. The Atlantic posted a video on YouTube about the problems of social media and ways to limit the amount of screen time for children.

Common Sense Media also posted a video which is linked here about how to effectively maintain a healthy relationship with media, highlighting that education plays a role in children interacting with media.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @KRosa_AC301.

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