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.
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)?