By Kris Hey
My son is nearing 11, and I don’t let him use social media.
He doesn’t have his own cellphone yet. He uses my iPhone sometimes, but I limit the apps to single-player games and educational programs and don’t let him text. Once in a while, I let him use FaceTime to talk with friends, but I keep an eye on him when he’s using it.
Like most people with a smartphone, I regularly use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. I might even be that sole person who watches Netflix on my tiny iPhone 4s screen.
This topic of children and social media has been all over the news lately, and the reports are mixed.
According to a recent blog post in the Huffington Post, while the study of the effects of social media on children is still relatively new, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the bad, the ugly, and the good. The post ( http://huff.to/12LZTHT ) spells out “some recent findings that are worth considering as you increasingly expose your children to different types of technology.”
I’m not surprised at the findings. “Perhaps the most comprehensive study to date found that Facebook overuse among teens was significantly correlated with narcissism,” according to the blog post. Among young adults, Facebook overuse also was associated with personality disorders and other mental illnesses such as OCD and depression. The narcissism part does not surprise me, most people who use Facebook regularly see a bit of narcissism in many profiles, mine included.
The article also mentions addiction. That also is no shock to me; I am a social media addict myself. I can justify this by saying it is part of my job, which it is, but I also don’t need to spend hours at home posting pictures and status updates on my various social media sites. This is something I now realize I need to evaluate and address in my own life. I could spend that time with my son.
I definitely don’t want him using social media and the Internet as much as I do when he gets older, but I do believe if, used properly, social media and technology can help children without leading to mental disorders and addiction.
Social media and technology have the power to connect, educate, increase confidence and provide support to people with shyness or social anxiety, illnesses and conditions (support chat rooms are everywhere online and safe places to discuss feelings do exist) and many other benefits.
I think what we parents need to figure out when it’s OK for a child to start using social media, what is a safe amount of time for our children to spend using it, and we need to be aware and control the technology they use. Even Netflix has mature and even NR content, and I had to adjust my settings to make sure he did not see anything inappropriate trying to find his kid shows.
For our son, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not even in his near future. He is just not emotionally mature enough.
How do I know for sure? Let’s just say he has tried it without my knowledge, but that is a funny story for another day.