I can still hear my mom’s voice from the other room, yelling that I only had five more minutes to be online. I would quickly check my AOL email account, scroll through Myspace, and update my AIM away message. Then, with ease, I would sign out of all of the accounts and free up the phone line. I’d run off to play with friends, with no intention of getting back onto the computer until the next day.
Just reading that over again astounds me. When social media, and the internet in general, was first taking off, we were easily able to sign off on accounts and focus on other things in our daily happenings. Now, social media is a big part of our lives and it seems impossible for kids to fully disconnect from it. We are in a new generation of social reality, and social media is used for a lot of things, depending on who you ask. It is a great way to receive news updates and learn what is going on around the world. Staying connected to old friends and colleagues has never been easier, and it provides an outlet to network. However, if you ask a younger generation, most use social media as a way to post their life updates and “keep up” with appearances. We see kids glued to their phone, scrolling through their feed at the dinner table, afraid that they will miss out on something important; the constant updates and comments never end. Social media is not only consuming our child’s time and energy, but it is ultimately beginning to control their lives. How exactly? Here are five ways social media controls your kid:
Social media provides immediate rewards with little effort involved. Getting high feedback on posts provides kids with a sense of gratification. This triggers the need to replicate that feeling, so kids are now thinking of ways to boost their social media cred (i.e. cooler pictures, wittier comments). However, posts that receive little or negative feedback take a toll on a kid’s self esteem. The amount of likes and comments should not equate to how a child should feel about themselves, but sadly that isn’t always the case.
Instead of interacting in a real environment, kids are communicating primarily online. Unintentionally many create different personas on social media and therefore form relationships online that wouldn’t necessarily foster face-to-face.
Controls perception of life:
Kids get stuck to their screens, constantly taking pictures of what they are doing, in hopes they will capture a photo they can upload to social media. Ever heard, “it didn’t happen if you didn’t post it” come out of your child’s mouth? I have listened to kids talk about doing activities with the sole intent of capturing a cool picture. Kids are no longer intrigued about the activity itself, but rather documenting it for others to see.
Controls child empathy:
Because we aren’t able to see one’s physical reaction to social media posts, kids can become insensitive in regards to what they are posting. Moreover, kids might not realize that a comment they posted is actually be hurting someone’s feelings. Cyberbullying has become a major issue, and can actually be worse for a victim than the bullying that goes on in the classroom. Kids are more likely to be harsh on social media outlets because they are not actually hearing themselves say such cruelty out loud.
It becomes exceedingly difficult to explain to your child that what you post on the internet can’t always be erased and is publicly displayed. In this digital age, our kids are creating profiles that could ultimately stick around the rest of their lives. Those pictures, comments, and updates will be sealed into that social media outlet, and will most likely be easily accessible. The last thing you want is for your child to grow up and have to look back on their very public life in sixth grade.
Katie primarily focuses her research and writing efforts on youth safety and development. Right now, she is concentrating on advocacy projects for Mayor Law.