Social Media, Kids, and the Future

Wait, what? Is this normal? How? Why?


These were my reactions when I got an Instagram follow from my eight year old cousin. Fast forward a couple weeks to Christmas Day, and I am talking to him about how he is in love with his new iPhone, and he’s got the most followers on Instagram in his grade. We walk into the other room and my cousin, who is a sophomore in high school,  is talking with my brother about how she has to delete her Instagram post if it doesn’t get at least 50 likes within the first two hours of it being posted. Huh? There’s only 2 of my pictures that have over 50 likes on them!

Fast forward to today where I now ask myself, when do kids usually start their social media accounts? How does it change their daily interactions with one another? What does this mean for the future? Taking these questions one at a time can help me understand the new social world and how it relates to children.

Minimum age requirements have been on social networks as long as they have been in existence. The major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Snapchat require users to be 13 years old. Some more parent-friendly platforms like YouTube, FourSquare, and Flickr require users to be 13 but have a parent’s consent. So how is my eight year old cousin on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posting his favorite LeBron James quotes and bragging about the touchdown he scored in peewee football? Simple, there is no mechanism in place to verify the age of users. It works on a system of trust.

A study conducted by the safety advisory site, Knowyournet found that 59 percent of children under the age of 10 are active social media users. Okay, so this means that kids are growing up attached to electronic devices, and they will be much more computer savvy than even the best of us are now. No problem! But how does this constant interconnectivity affect the development of a young child’s outlook on the world?

Children who use social media experiencing school the same way any of us did, they just have an additional medium to document all communications on. Maintaining appearances is often the number one concern of high schoolers now adays, and part of maintaining a popular appearance is the number of likes or followers you have. From a developmental point of view, social media can help schools harness student’s love of social media. A Philadelphia school is now teaching first graders how to program with the use of an Angry Birds knockoff program. Students will engage with one another to work in more of a collaborative manner while the teacher largely facilitates their conversations. These tactics have been applied from elementary schools to high schools with varying degrees of success. So what does this mean for the future? Will kids have poor social skills because they have their eyes glued to a screen all day long? Not exactly.

The number of helpful and useful social media platforms can do wonders for a child’s development. There are plenty of examples where social media platforms are used for bullying or other harmful uses, but schools and platforms are starting to get a handle on how to manage those issues. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives, children will grow up in a world surrounded by information older generations may have never been exposed to growing up. They can harness this information and apply it to problems we don’t even realize exist yet and figure out creative way to collaboratively solve them using social platforms.

So it isn’t fair for me to judge my cousins about their quest for the most number of likes they can get or question the fact that they are signed up before they are supposed to. They are merely capitalizing on social platforms to connect with their peers, influence others, and learn as much as they can. Isn’t that what we are all trying to do anyway?

During my research, I also found this infographic and thought you all might like it interesting. I would also love to hear from parents to see their thoughts on their children’s use of social media.




  1. The world is definitely changing, as a teen myself I know schools in my country have started to do a lot in the most recent years to educate us about how to be safe online. I think one of the biggest impacts of the increased use of social media is the effect it has on our social behaviour, and how we act with real face-to-face human beings. Thanks for posting!

  2. I thought this was a really great post and something I think about a lot. I think age restrictions for children on social media are integral, but like you said, hard to control. So it definitely falls in the lap of parents to monitor this. I also thinking the use of technology in school at a young age is an interesting topic. I can see both sides to the argument that it can be harmful and beneficial. I think at the end of the day, technology and social media are now so engrained in our culture that it only makes sense schools are integrating them into curriculum. However, I think it is a balancing act to manage technology use and social/interactive skills at a young age and would be interested to learn more about how schools are approaching this.

  3. It’s pretty crazy how involved kids are becoming in social media. I remember growing up, my mom would not allow me or my brother to use MySpace until we reached a certain age. Looking back, her concern with MySpace may have been validated, but that’s beyond the point. I used to work at an elementary school an saw this new trend right there. The kids in the third grade class I worked in had iPhones, Facebooks, Twitter accounts and Instagram. Of course, I would joke around with them about it, but it is actually quite concerning. When is the appropriate age to put yourself out there on social media? They all probably thought they were being cool, but actually may have been putting themselves at risk given their young age. They would proudly show me their Facebook statuses and likes and would sometimes ask me to send them a friend request. Clearly, I said no, but the fact that they wanted to add someone twice their age is pretty concerning. Anyways, like previously mentioned, parents should monitor their children’s social media activity until a certain age. Once that age has been reached, they need to let go and let their children flourish in the world of the web on their own and learn from their own mistakes.

  4. Nice post. It’s super interesting to see how different generations are using the networks – for instance, I know that the kids that I used to nanny are super into Instagram as opposed to Facebook. They have hundreds of followers, get exponentially more likes on their pictures, know how to game their hashtags to get more likes and comments, and don’t get me started on their filter/caption game. It’s a little sickening to be honest. I think as we see younger and younger populations on these networks, we may also see these networks being used in school to enhance the learning experience. This may also help kids to understand that there are more ways to use a social network, i.e. Twitter, than sub-Tweeting about tween drama.

  5. I think this is a hard topic to discuss. If only because those who are discussing it now (i.e. adults) don’t have the experience of childhood with social media. Certainly there was MySpace and FaceBook is over 10 years old, but there was not the breadth and infiltration of social usage that kids are joining into today. And the advent of the smart phone and all of the social exposure that came with mobility did not happen until later. I think this creates an abyss of knowledge in terms of what the psychological and social effects will be for today’s children. It is one thing to say that there are many opportunities opened up with social (and I truly believe that there are) and that as long as there is moderation children should be fine; however, we have to remember that almost all of our social development happened face-to-face and we have a memory of a time without social media. Perhaps, in the future, kids will not have poor social skills based on what the social climate is at the time…but I often wonder at what will be lost/injured in terms of communication, empathy, and offline relationships in a generation that was born into an online social world. Unfortunately, the only way to develop a body of knowledge of the long-term effects is the “wait and see” approach, by which time social media will be so engrained that it will be tricky trying to make changes to age limits if necessary. This post really made me think, thank you!

  6. Yes. The whole underage user thing is a bit of a sham. Really all it means is that the companies can’t knowingly sign these kids up. In reality, its pretty easy to circumvent. Many parents let their kids do so, because they don’t really understand the platform. My kids both love and hate that their dad is a SM professor. They often get fabulous hand me down tools, but I also limit their use more than most parents.

  7. To be honest, it kind of upsets me that kids are spending all of their time on social media. I absolutely think SM has a lot of positive power, but I wonder if its changing the dynamics of friendship for their generation. I find that a lot of kids end up misusing the platform, which may be why cyberbullying is such a big (and terrible) issue right now. Even looking back on my own use of the platforms from early high school makes me cringe; what was I thinking?! Perhaps it would be proactive for middle schools to offer a class like Prof Kane that kind of teaches students the dos and don’ts of social media. Great post!

  8. Nice post! This is something that I think about a lot- especially being the oldest of five kids in my family (most of them are more tech/social media savvy than I am at this point). A part of me does get upset when I see my siblings glued to their phones and obsessed with the number of likes that they get on a post. On the other hand, I definitely agree with you that schools and parents are starting to get a better handle on issues such as cyberbullying. I think that education on all this is the answer. If kids understand the importance of balance, as well as how to use social media in the right ways, then I think that it will be a positive for them growing up.

  9. I really agree with what Emily said above. I am the oldest of 4 and I am starting to see the effects of social media on my siblings’ lives. Everyone is always glued to their phones doing different things instead of living in the present moment. I was one of the many who lied about their age to get their Facebook page, showing how easy it is for a non-tech savvy underage user to go on one of the biggest social media sites. I agree with what you said in your post about cyberbullying and I think that there is so much awareness of the act that parents and teachers are doing a better job of preventing and handling it. There are even teen movies and TV shows that handle the difficult issues of cyberbullying and overuse of social media on main stations like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. This shows that there is some attempt at general education of kids and teens on a national level as well as the personal level. Interesting post, I would love to discuss this more in class!

  10. That’s the biggest issue with not only SM but with the internet. Many sites requires you to enter your date of birth or to confirm you are x age for you to enter/use. I can’t really see there is a solution that can really solve this problem. As I mentioned in my previous blog. I think education at an earlier stage on SM may be needed. In addition, I also think that many adults do not recognize all the possible negatives that SM can have on young child and teens because the benefits are really obvious, on a user’s perspective.

  11. Great post! I always wonder about this topic especially when I am with my little cousins and they are using social media. I think it is smart to introduce social media in school because I think that also lends itself to discussions about how to handle the internet and cyberbullying. Even when I was in junior high,everyone had a myspace or a Facebook so I think it would be cool if schools incorporate social media into the classroom and teach responsibility.

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