I know I’m a new parent and I don’t have to worry about social media just yet, but today I want to talk about a topic that has been on my mind lately and honestly something that scares me for when my children get older.
I’m 29 years old. When I was in middle school and high school I spent hours on the phone. That’s what my friends and I did when we weren’t together…we would just sit and talk on the phone about nothing. I also spent some time on AOL (dial up that is :)), instant messaging my friends. I got my first cell phone when I was 16 and got my driver’s license. It was a Nokia (you know the one where you played the game, “Snake”?), and only for emergencies.
The difference here was none of this was portable (except for my cell phone that was for emergencies with no Internet access) and my friends and I were still forced to be social when we were together, versus kids today who have their eyes glued to their phones even when they are spending time at a friend’s house.
Today, kids don’t talk on the phone…they text. When I coached cheerleading I remember one of my high school aged girls saying how odd it was that her friend called her a few times. She said, “We don’t do that…it’s just weird.” Ok…so times have definitely changed.
Now with social media thrown into the mix, tween and teen communication has been taken to a whole new level of crazy.
More than 1 billion people are on Facebook around the world. I know many parents who won’t allow their children to have a Facebook account and I applaud them. However, even with this website’s crazy popularity, it’s becoming less appealing for kids to be on it. Once again, one of my cheerleader’s said, “Facebook isn’t cool anymore…my Grandma’s on Facebook.”
For younger people today the social media tide is turning more toward Instagram and Twitter, and parents are allowing their children to be on these sites and I’m having a hard time understanding why. Is it because they aren’t as familiar with these sites as they are with Facebook? Is it because these sites have yet to have negative press about children being bullied like they see happening with Facebook…enough for young people to take their own lives?
I say Facebook isn’t the problem but social media is the problem, and different sites are just different mediums that are allowing the same exact problems to occur.
Instagram is a site where users share pictures and videos with their followers. You can make your profile private, so you have to accept each follower. However, even though your account is private, if your kids are hashtagging their pictures, they are no longer private. If you don’t know what hashtagging is, it’s ok :). It’s when you see the # sign before words, which turns it into a link. Adding the pound sign now makes this picture or post searchable to every single user on Instagram and available for download to anyone who chooses…that’s scary.
Have you heard about where girls post a “selfie” and then it goes up against another girl’s “selfie” and then their peers rank who is more beautiful? Then the winner goes on to face another girl, and so on. I also recently found out that there is actually an app where you can purchase “Likes” for your Instagram account and I know of some kids who are doing it. Seriously? Does anyone else see how sick this is?
All this does is teach our children that their beauty and self worth are in the eyes of their “followers,” based on how many little hearts they get next to their photos on Instagram. And sometimes if they don’t get enough likes, they delete the photo.
This makes me so sad. At a time when it’s vital to teach self esteem to young people we are allowing the opposite to happen and also allowing our children to be more self-centered as they post a hundred pictures of themselves doing the hideous “duck face.” For the life of me I cannot understand why young girls and even adults think they look cute or attractive doing this.
Social media has a direct correlation to the increase of bullying. Bullies have always existed but now cyber bullying has taken it to an extreme level because kids can hide behind their smartphone or computer. For parents who think that bullying only occurs on Facebook, you could not be more wrong.
Here is where I stand. If my son was ten years older would he have a cell phone…no. Do I understand why some parents give their kids a cell phone at a younger age for emergencies? Yes I do, but I don’t know why they need to have a smart phone with Internet access. A simple phone to call or text mom or dad is sufficient for what they need. Parents also have to remember that their children don’t need an actual phone to utilize these sites. If they have an iPod or iPad with Internet access they can as well.
The big question I leave for you is this, is there some way to achieve a healthy balance or is social media an all or nothing kind of parenting decision? It’s a tough call. If a parent is monitoring every post and comment their kid is leaving then maybe, but lets be realistic…very few parents even know their kids have these social media accounts.
On the contrary I do think it’s essential to teach your children about utilizing social media safely and correctly, but not until they reach the appropriate age and are mature enough to do so.
In my generation we would waste our lives away talking to our friends on the phone (all real friends…that we actually knew) as our teenage right of passage. Today our kids’ lives are on broadcast and many parents are allowing it, and that’s scary to me. I’m curious to see what the next big thing will be when my kids reach their teen years.
And thats my two cents.