Saturday, October 12, 2013

The impact of social media on children and youth today

If you watch the recent news and see your children or other people's children on social media, you get a good look at what is influencing your child's life.

I was a teacher for 17 years and that was about 15 years ago. The children in my classes were mostly Middle School age and they weren't so hard to teach as the children I see making the news and my friends who are teachers describe.

If I could do it, I would like to come back to the schools and teach the Random Acts of Kindness lessons (as a volunteer in the classroom of other teachers.)

I think this new "me" generation is greatly affected by Social Media and that it can be a bad thing for SOME children. I am grieving for children who take their lives due to bullying.  I have spoken about bullying in this blog and since this month is focusing on anti-bullying I will continue to do so.   You can read the first article that I wrote about this just 2 years ago here:

I'm also surprised at the stories in the news about the effects of Social Media on children today:

Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids

Social Media and Its Effect on Children: The Interception


Image from the Child Study Center

From the "Anti-Social Networking: How do texting and social media affect our children?" I'd like to point out the following information from their surveys:


How much are kids using media?

  • The total amount of media use by youth ages 8 to 18 averages 6-plus hours a day—more than any other activity.
  • The amount of use has increased significantly, up from 4-plus hours in the last five years.
  • Eighty percent of adolescents possess at least one form of media access.
  • There is extensive multi-tasking associated with media use (instant messaging while doing homework and listening to music on an mp3 player, for example).
  • Of particular concern is the amount of TV kids consume. From 2004 to 2009, television and video use averaged three to five hours per day, peaking between the ages of 11 and 14, a crucial period for kids' social development.
  • Fifty-four percent of teens send text messages, and one third of teens send more than 100 text messages per day.
  • One third talk face-to-face with friends, around the same percentage that talk on cell phones (38 percent) and land lines (30 percent).
  • Twenty-four percent communicate with friends via instant messages.
  • Twenty-five percent contact friends via social networking sites.
  • Eleven percent use e-mail.

How does media use affect kids' development?

Because texting, instant messaging, and social networking sites like Facebook are still comparatively new, research is not really available yet on their long-term effects. But we can extrapolate a certain amount from research on the effects of TV and video games on children's development.

  • Among preschoolers, more time spent watching TV has been shown to have a negative impact on attention, academic performance, and adjustment in elementary school and middle school.
  • Increases in media use are associated with reduced grades; only 23 percent of "light" users averaged C's or worse, as compared with 47 percent of "heavy" users.
  • Kids who see more TV learn to read later and slower.
Violent and sexual content, in both TV and video games, bring their own concerns. Increased exposure to violence has been proven to result in:

  • More aggressive behavior
  • More aggressive thoughts
  • More angry feelings
  • Less empathy
  • Fewer helping behaviors
  • Increases in fear
Furthermore, this content tends to be:

  • Unrealistic: in 73 percent of instances there is no punishment, and only 16 percent of programs show any negative consequences to violent behavior.
  • Frequent in children's programming. Even when kids are watching "family friendly" shows like "Sponge Bob," there is an average 25 acts of violence per TV-viewing session.
Sexualized content, which appears frequently in certain video games and often includes sexualized violence, is associated with:

  • Poor attitudes towards women
  • An increase in rape myth acceptance–"They asked for it."
  • Increases in violence against women
In terms of how this information might extend to the use of other social media:

  • Participation for long periods of time can have a negative effect on basic cognitive processes.
  • Overuse can have a negative impact on attention skills.
  • The content of the information can have an effect on emotions and behavior.
Furthermore, the actions that are discussed, encouraged, and practiced in interactive media are likely to become stronger and more frequent. If kids practice violent interactions, they are likely to get better at them; the U.S. Armed Forces uses video games as part of training for combat.


What parents can do

There are a number of things parents can and should do to stave off potential negative consequences of social media.

  • Learn more about social media, either from your children (they are digital natives, we are digital immigrants) or by taking a class. 
  • Except in extreme circumstances, try to find a way to allow your child to participate in social media. If they say they'll be left out socially if you restrict their access altogether, they're probably right.
  • Join your child's social networks and "friend" them. While it may increase parent-child conflict, you need to know the substance of what your child is saying and doing on these sites and confront them about inappropriate behavior. Thirty-nine percent of parents report having friended their teen on a social networking site.
  • Teach kids to stop and really think before responding to text messages or comments made on social media.
  • Set limits. Use software that turns the computer off after a certain number of hours and/or tracks online activity.
  • Get your children's passwords. Again, online privacy from parents is not an inalienable right. A Facebook page is not a diary, kept under the bed under lock and key. If friends and friends-of-friends can see it, Mom and Dad need to be able to as well.
  • Don't let kids charge phones or laptops in their bedrooms, and don't let them have these devices in their rooms overnight. Your teen should not be on Facebook or replying to text messages instead of sleeping.
  • If possible, limit the presence of cell phones and computers in kids' bedrooms during all hours of the day. Find a place in your home that is quiet enough for homework, but still public.
  • Model good behavior. If you are checking your BlackBerry or iPhone at the dinner table or on family vacations, how can you expect your children to unplug? Make time for family time. Surf the Web together, and share other activities as well.
  • If kids go a day (or several) without being online, their world will not come to an end (that goes for you, too).
  • Especially for younger kids, play (the kind that doesn't involve computers) is important. Video games are among the most popular activities when boys get together, and Facebook and other social networking sites are popular with girls. Force kids to play outside or engage in other types of activities if necessary: "You can play the video game after you've played outside for half an hour."
  • Talk with kids about what is and isn't appropriate to post online. There is definitely such a thing as "oversharing"! Just because kids' friends are posting certain photos or information doesn't mean it's a good idea.
  • Keep social networking in its place. Make sure your kids eat well, sleep well, and exercise.Teach and model social skills and empathy.
  • Know the content your child is consuming. Watch the YouTube videos, look at their friends' Facebook page if you have access, play the video games they play.
  • Discuss content viewed online (and this goes for TV, video games, movies, music videos, etc.). Does it agree with your values? Is it accurate and/or realistic? How do you think it may affect the behavior and emotions of people who see it?
  • Confront your kids about Facebook or other social media posts you feel are inappropriate, from them or their friends.
  • Remind kids not to post photos or content that could help strangers find them in the real world, such as photos in school uniforms or displaying school names or logos. Make sure your child limits access to Facebook pages and other social media to people your child specifically accepts as "friends," and tell them not to accept friend requests from strangers.

To read this complete article and another important one, please go to:   

Anti-Social Networking: How do texting and social media affect our children? Parents' questions and answers from CSC clinicians at the Nightingale-Bamford School

I constantly see children (including one out of 2 of mine who are grown men now) come back and thank you for the positive words of encouragement to them when they were growing up.  And then if I were to only watch the Dr. Phil Show, I would think that all kids and their parents are bad people in need of his wisdom.  I think that when I see them that it's so great that he's able to impact one life at a time.

What is your feeling about social media impacting children and youth since they were first able to use it?   Have you seen the incline of bullying and other problem areas that I see?  If not, what do you observe and do you have any suggestions to the rest of my readers as to what you would advise in regard to this topic?

Tomorrow I will continue with this topic.  Stay tuned!

  Day 12


Evelyn Kalinosky said...

Very thought-provoking post. My two kids are grown with children of their own and I worry for my four grandchildren and how they will fare in school. I truly believe it starts at the top and what's tolerated by the administration of a school sets the stage for how kids will behave. That's not to say there won't be bullying or bad behavior by some - that's always been there - but it doesn't have to be a way of life in this world. We don't have to stand idly by and watch bullying become the norm and acts of kindness "random" or seen as heroic. Thanks for making us think!

Ann-Marie said...

Some interesting points and statistics in this post. I have to admit I am guilty of sticking my 4 year old in front of the TV so I can get my work done but I have started to limit his time as I don't want that to be his only form of entertainment.
I do worry that the young people today are not having enough human interaction. The life of texting has made it so that being able to spell is s special skill!
Great post. I look forward to reading more.

Bonnie a.k.a. LadyBlogger said...

This is an excellent piece! (I pinned it to my "e learning" and "children" Pinterest boards. You gave some really great information!

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