We spend a lot of time in class citing social media to illustrate concepts or addressing the potential power it holds for consumers and brands alike. I think it's interesting to ask ourselves of the impact social media has on children:
I've always found my self interested in the idea of applications of social media ever since it began integrating itself into my friends lives as well as my own. I remember being in 7th grade when I first got MSN Messenger, a live online chat forum, and would spend hours talking with my friends virtually. Although the messenger certainly aided my keyboard skills, I can recall often wondering what good or bad it really had to offer. At times it seemed as though it was just another medium of communication to stir drama and spread gossip. However, regardless of my 7th grade philosophical pondering, I would continue to sign on to the dial-up connection and chat with my friends through the after hours of the school day. In fact, I recall chatting up my first girlfriend over MSN and making it 'official' at the school dance that Friday evening. I think instances like that go to show just what a force the internet and the virtual worlds it holds had on the lives of children such as myself. MSN Messanger, in my opinion, marks my first interaction with the budding flower that was social media.
To this day, I still ask myself of the impact that social media has on us all. It's pretty incredible that Facebook has been branded in such as way that is now seemingly synonymous with the brand Kleenex instead of facial tissue; e.g., "Facebook it to me!" This, on one hand, is pretty darn rad. I've certainly discovered countless things to help me procrastinate or fill a void of boredom from the news feed alone, and that's beside that fact that I need to manage my virtual life from time to time. Among all the radness, I still have to stop myself and ask what it all really means and what kind of impact it could be having on us. The social media ball is already rolling, has been for some time, and definitely doesn't seem to be stopping; but is it good? I believe as adults and mentally mature beings, we are all able to interpret social media and the internet in a way that's healthy. A demographic that doesn't quite qualify for this exception is children, and I think we can all ask ourselves where these young fragile minds fit into the picture.
There are many articles and research studies that attack the concept of social media and youth, but I found this one to be particularly interesting because it highlighted both the goods as well as the bads:
Perhaps I sound about 10 years older with children and no hobbies to speak of, but I can certainly see many detriments to today's youth being connected to the internet in so many ways. As the articles study touches on, social media sites are often outlets for personalities that people would like to project rather than who they are in reality. This is especially true for pre-teens and young teens alike, who's concerns for the day are likely to include their social standing, friendships, and interactions with others. Furthermore, the ages that these youth are tapping into the internet and social media sites is getting younger and younger. I've seen kids in 4th grade who have an iPhone, and maybe I'm just jealous (because I am) that I don't have one, but that seems crazy! These points, among many others, are all reflecting on the youth themselves. There is also cyber-bullying, harassment, and teen-privacy issues to worry about. I certainly don't wish to discredit the cognitive ability of young teenagers as I truly believe they're able to make very rational and educated decisions. I will say, however; that social media and the internet is not all to forgiving of a playground for those who wish to explore. With things like sexual predators, viruses, and hidden privacy policies, there is certainly enough at stake.
Ultimately, I don't believe that social media effects on children are overwhelmingly good or bad. There are certainly many positives such as forging and maintaining friendships, finding similar interests, and exploring new avenues of pastimes and self expression. I think it's important for the youth of today to be educated on the dangers of social media as well as what exactly it all is. The internet is a beautiful thing, but it can also be ugly - making sure that everyone is up to par on the dos and don'ts certainly cannot hurt.