My little cousins, kids, and social media

I just realize how much I focus on social media’s popularity, features, and future but not much attention on its users. Yesterday I happened see an article with the title: ”Letting Your Kids Play in the Social Media Sandbox” on the New York Times. I don’t have kids now but I do have little cousins in my family. And it is a very interesting but worrying article that I hashtag #d on twitter.

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Basically, the article is about an uncle analyzing how much social media tools that parents should let their kids expose to. The situation started with how his nephew asked for his own Youtube account and disappointed that his friend could have one already. The uncle went ahead and presented three groups of social media which he called “door”

-Door#1: “public sites like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, where by default everything anyone posts is visible to others.”

-Door#2: “private apps like Snapchat and Telegram, where posts vanish after they are viewed.

-Door#3: “anonymous apps like Secret and YikYak that let people say anything they want, completely anonymously.”

It is interesting how he categorizes social media based on the personal exposure level on the Internet AKA privacy, not on the feature or the user interface that the app provides. Even when we discuss about social media, we discuss the target user group for social or financial purpose. The uncle in the article touches on privacy concern; and I find his way of grouping them are pretty accurate. He worries that the kids couldn’t bear the harsh comments from others on social media, which can cause trauma or unhealthy development. But kids are curious and playful. They find social media attractive probably just like how we mostly like to do: connect with friends; show off that pretty dress, or to learn new things.

I like how he calls social media group as door. It implies that social media is way to see the world other than your room. Each door has different potential that kids can open their minds and develop into well-rounded people. Nonetheless, each door also has potential danger that kids and parents have to watch out for: cyber bullying.

Now the question is how much private concerns the kids would have when they are on the Internet: probably not as much. For my little cousins, one likes to watch and comment on Youtube video and the other likes to post her selfies on Facebooks. They created the account when they were six grades. However, their profiles were all fictions with the most imaginative profile that they can think of. Well I guess they just want to be able to connect with others and maybe learn something new, like tips to play League of Legend.

Let’s change the question to how much private concerns the parents would have for their kids on the Internet: that depends. I assume that parents want their kids to be safe and sound. But not all of the adults are aware of the private issue on social media. We all give up some of our privacy to be able to go online already anyway. If parents are protective and they want to have control over the kids’ activity, then they might try hard to prevent the kids from entering the social media world. However, kids nowadays are smart. They may be even more expert on social media than the parents. Unless they are not provided with any smart devices but that would take away the chance for the kids to learn in the growing technology society. That is like how you shut the door before opening to see what is on the other side even though there is no guarantee of what that something can be

I personally do not know how much exposure I would let my kids to social media. I mean, they are young and they are yearning to learn new things. And they can find themselves addictive to the virtual activities provided along with social media platform. Yes I am talking about Candy Crush Saga or Farmville. I myself couldn’t balance my social media activities with other outdoor activities and especially schoolwork until recently. And I am a college student!

The uncle in the article didn’t come up with any rule of thumbs for parents to either or not let their kids to go on these social media platforms. Rather, he takes his stand when decides to allow the nephew to have Youtube account with private setting, in serving the purpose of sharing his gameplay-Minecraft- with the world so “no one, beyond his friends, would be able to tell him how wonderful his Oscar-worthy clips are […] And no one will be able to say anything mean to you, either.” I find this a temporary solution for the current situation.

I’m curious how the law will deal with the younger users on social media. It can become more complicated as more and more social media platforms are created. Do you think there will be regulations on this subject besides the ambiguous COPAA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act)?

11 comments

  1. I personally think social media should only be used for educational purposes, especially with younger kids. YouTube is a great educational tool. Teachers use it in the classrooms to provide students with visual representations of the topics they are discussing. However, kids should not be left alone to interact with social media. At least toddlers and elementary school kids should only be exposed to the content found in social platforms through their teachers or parents. Ten-year-olds that already have a Facebook and Twitter account do not have a clear idea of the implications posting in these accounts can have on their future lives. My recommendation for parents is to try to keep their children away from social media until a certain age; at least until they are mature enough to understand how their online interactions will be public and will stay forever on the virtual world.

  2. I agree with the comment above. I can recall getting taught extremely interesting and valuable lessons in the classroom when I was younger from YouTube videos, but for all of the good videos it seems like there is 100x as many videos with inappropriate content. I do believe we will see new laws put in place as time passes and more issues arise with children and social media.

  3. I found this blog very interesting. I completely agree with your comment stating, “However, kids nowadays are smart. They may be even more expert on social media than the parents.” I myself have a 9 year old niece and a 6 year old nephew; and it amazes me how much time they spend on social media. YouTube specifically has gotten the best of my niece. My niece has abused YouTube by watching videos of the latest dances and songs. I find it quite humorous actually as well. Both my niece and nephew can navigate through their ipads, gaming consoles, etc. without a problem. It is actually scary how much they know. My mother, their grandmother, is not even on that level. My mother continues to struggle with downloading applications and navigating through her smartphone (she has a Galaxy S5). Although I do not get to see them often, every time I return home from BC, it is truly amazing how much they’ve become so well rounded with technology and social media. My niece is always showing me a new dance or something she has learned. I would always say “Ymani!! Where did this come from? Teach me,” and she would respond “Aunty, look…” and she would pull it up on her ipad. I swear my niece is extremely intelligent, I just wish she would apply the same focus and desire to her studies like she does with her ipad and YouTube.

  4. I think it will be interesting to read this article in 10 years and see how much has changed and if our hesitations to allow children into the world of social media have changed. Personally, I cannot decide on my stance on this issue. I have a little brother who posts on Facebook and Twitter very often and most of the time I want to yell at him for oversharing. I send screenshots to my sister almost weekly of things he posts with the message, “Did you see this?????” In some ways I feel as though social media has exposed him to too much and has made him grow up very quickly. However, social media has also allowed me to see into his life in ways I wouldn’t be able to since I can’t see him everyday. I see posts about awards he wins at school or about his Little League games.
    However, regardless of how we feel about children using social media, I wonder if it is going to be inevitable, especially if it is integrated into school curriculum. If instead of playing tapes on old VCR players, will teachers use projectors to show YouTube clips instead? Will children learn typing at an earlier age and be expected to comment on videos as a class assignment? As more apps are created for educational purposes, will they be used by teachers to create a network between the child, teacher, and parents to ensure the child is getting the most out of his education? And once that starts, won’t the flood gates inevitably open to the rest of social media?

  5. The biggest concern that I have with social media and children is that once you open one door, I believe it would be fairly easy for all of the other doors to begin to open as well. While creating a private youtube account may be the first step in introducing children to social media, once a child is exposed to one outlet they will naturally want to join others as the see links to Facebook and Twitter on these sites. I personally do not think children should be creating a personal image of themselves on the Internet much before the age of thirteen. While I see no problem with children watching Youtube, when they are given unmonitored access to personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I believe disaster could ensue quickly with seemingly harmless posts in a child’s eyes that could end up being inappropriate.

  6. Really nice post. I get more questions about this issue than any other; and, with a 9 and 7 year old, there are no easy answers. It’s made worse by clueless parents who will let their kids use all sorts of sites, because they don’t understand them. My personal rule is this – by the terms of service, kids under 13 are not allowed to use FB, Twitter, etc. – so I won’t allow my kids to use them until then. There are several kid-oriented social media sites out there, as well.

  7. This is a fascinating subject and a difficult one. You can’t help but hear stories when social media has negatively impacted younger generations. Foremost, I give credit to this parent for understanding the channels. That is a great starting point–just understanding.

    If a law changes to regulate social media channels, I would highly recommend that anonymity be restricted. If someone has something to say, they can put their name (or username, at the very least) against it. If the law does not change that, I would recommend parents not allow their kids to be on those anonymous sites.

    As in most parenting situations, parents might want to explain to their children why they are making these decisions. This may lead to a healthy discussion, debating both sides. The hope is for both sides to be bought in to the final decision. It is not to be ignored that kids face pressures to be doing the same things as their friends are. Hopefully, a sound decision can be made in the end, knowing all the facts.

  8. I have never really thought of this. Though, as a kid who was always tech savvy and usually on social media sites a few years before my peers, I think I will be okay with my child using social media early. I also really like the use of the “door” metaphor. It really is a door — but at the same time I almost think that these doors and his categories are merging together. A lot of the same things appears across all social media sites almost to the point where you wouldn’t be able to tell which social media site you were looking at if you took away the interfaces. I’ve also found it interesting that I think kids have been using Instagram as their own Facebook until they’re 13. Kids use instagram in a completely different way than adults and its definitely very interesting to observe.

  9. Great post, very interesting topic! When I saw your tweet last week I was surprised that I had never even thought of the implications of social media in younger generations. We’ve talked about how our social profiles are all a branding element of who we are. Personally, I don’t think younger generations are mature or grown up enough to start developing their “brand.” Additionally, last week in class we talked about how college coaches have used social media to bend around the rules of talking to athletes about recruitment since their are no established rules yet over these platforms since they are still so new. This is similar to younger generations using social media since there are no set guidelines to who can use social media or what age. Though all the positives and negatives social media can bring, I think it is important to determine the ultimate goal of social media (creating platforms of sharing and collaboration??) to decide whether or not the younger generation should be exposed to the social media world. I’m curious to see where this goes!

    1. Most sites require users to be at least 13 years old. But I seriously don’t know how they can enforce that. And I agree with you on finding the ultimate goal of SM to determine guild-line for kids. But it is a very debating topic till the end

  10. This is an excellent post and a very fascinating topic. With all the lack of accountability online and on social media apps, children and younger teenagers are susceptible to all kinds of ideas and thoughts. With the internet, children can access almost anything in the world. Although this can be used as a great learning experience, it could also be a huge setback if children learn the wrong things online. I believe that childrens’ use of the internet should be closely guarded by their parents and guardians because the last thing they want is a bad influence online.

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