Guest Post by Justin Osborne
Raising a child has always been demanding, but raising a kid in the age of the Internet and social media is taking the game to the whole new level. Even if you remain careful and extremely devoted, there is no guarantee that social networks will not affect your tween.
But before we start explaining why social media is not a smart option for your kids, we should define the term ‘tween’ and reveal why this age group if particularly sensitive. A tween is a youngster between 9 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.
This is the period of life when children begin developing their personalities. In this process, a majority of tweens act pretty much the same:
- They strive to fit into popular groups.
- They want to be interesting and funny.
- They are ready to try anything just to find the appropriate style and outfit.
To put it simply, tweens want to become independent. Back at the time, it was easier to control kids and monitor their behavior because they were at home or in school. You could watch them or ask teachers how they behave, so there was hardly any chance to miss anything.
But the digital world is much bigger and more difficult to keep an eye on.
At some point in life, you just give up resisting the pressure. You give or buy your tween a smartphone because it’s just what parents do these days. Every other kid already has one, so why would your child be any different? After all, it has to learn how to socialize even if it means creating a few social media profiles. This is awkward for the number of reasons:
- Social networks are not toys: School kids don’t know how to behave and decide what is right and what is wrong. On the other hand, social media was not created for youngsters and it’s flooded with inappropriate content.
- It is all about entertainment: Don Mullens, a social media expert at UK Best Essays, recently stated: “The Internet, in general, can teach your tweens many new things, but social media are primarily an entertainment and marketing technology. Facebook and other networks are designed to keep users amused while their powerful algorithms gather personal information about potential customers”.
- Social media are addictive: Kids often cannot balance between leisure time and school duties. They are ready to spend 10 hours a day scrolling down the newsfeed or chatting with friends. They will make 2,000 connections just to earn the social proof. In such abundance of digital friends and ephemeral content, it’s impossible to find out what they do online.
- Waste intellectual potential: We already noticed that social networks offer tons of ephemeral content, which is terrible for school kids who are full of learning potential in this age.
- Weakens interpersonal communication: We all know that entire industries are going digital these days, but the vast majority of businesses still require face-to-face communication. Social media weakens communication skills, leaving kids underprepared for real-life challenges.
- Alienation: A family is still an anchor of the human society, but it’s currently under huge pressure coming from social media “friends” who create a new form of online community.
How to Reduce the Impact of Social Media on Kids?
However risky, social media are the constitutive element of modern age childhoods. You can’t isolate kids, but you can reduce the impact of social networking on their personal growth. Here are the best ways to do it:
- Let them wait
Okay, so we’ve seen that you can hardly avoid giving your tween a mobile device. What you can do is let the kid wait for a while before having it. If you can wait until she or he is 10, wait for it. If you can wait for one more year – even better! Children grow up quickly. A few months mean a lot in this period of life, so don’t rush into things. Let them establish real-life relationships with family and friends before allowing them to go digital.
- Monitor their accounts
Kids hate parents who behave like watchdogs all the time, but you have to keep things under control. Approach your tweens delicately and explain that they should feel free to communicate with online friends in front of you. Encourage them to make live calls instead of chat conversations.
- Create the family account
It’s easy for the kids to open one more social media profile, but having a joint family account will help you follow the progress at least to some degree.
- Forbid social networking on smartphones
This tip is easier said than done, but certainly not impossible to handle. You can allow social networking on laptops or desktop computers where you can see what’s going on. However, you should forbid opening social media accounts on mobile phones. Such small devices are easier to hide and manipulate, so you won’t be able to find out anything about your kids’ activities.
- Limit their online time
Children can waste hours watching videos, playing games, or chatting with their friends. You should limit the time they spend on social media regardless of the network or device. For instance, you can let them spend an hour or two online on a daily basis. Another good solution is to make them spend at least two or three days a week without social media. That way, they can put more focus on activities such as studying or playing outside.
- Encourage face-to-face activities
A child doesn’t need more than a few friends to socialize and build a nice personality. In that respect, you should encourage your kid to go out and play with peers. You can take them camping or swimming or doing any other out-of-home action. The more they engage in this kind of activity, the more they’ll appreciate it.
- Support them no matter what
With all those hi-tech equipment around us, sometimes we forget that kids still need their parents more than anyone or anything else in life. You should spend time with children, talk to them, and play with them. Let them know that there is another world – the real world – where they can find some peace and consolation.
Kids have to stay up to date with new technologies and social media, but they should learn it one step at the time. It is your job to find the balance between social networks and everyday face-to-face activities to let the kid grow naturally, so don’t forget to make it happen.