Today's children are intense communicators. The low prices and ease of purchasing mobile devices has made communication among children very effective. The younger generation, compared to communication patterns of older generations, show an online presence marked by more communication and social networking activities. Moreover, this young generation is using social media in a more active manner compared to the older generation. However, this trend comes at a cost in terms of health risks. Given how recent social media applications and platforms are, a better understanding of the impacts of social media usage patterns on children is necessary. It is also important to investigate the influence of social media on this generation. Therefore, this presentation aims to explore the main sources of social media impact on children.
The rising influence of social media on children is well documented in communication literature. Health risk has been one of the greatest influence of social media. Although the conventional media has been giving information on safe health practices, more recent studies show aggression, sexual behavior, substance use, disordered eating, and academic difficulties are among health hazards children are subject to when exposed to prolonged hours on social media (Strasburger, Jordan and Donnerstein 757). However, if conventional media – which is quite controllable – has been shown to impact negatively on children, how about social media which is easily accessible by children?
The scope of this question is, indeed, broad. Given how common social media platforms are, one possible approach to social media's influence on children is to refer to parental concerns. This involves asking parent to give feedback on their children's usage patterns of social media. In most cases, children are tempted to use social media platforms due to the attractive interface designs. Moreover, entertainment and social networking makes these children enjoy spending time online. Being on social media exposes children to healthy conversations. However, this also subjects them to possible risky engagements which may include cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 800).
As noted, social media remains a recent area of research. Therefore, practices such as cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content are yet to be well defined (801). This is because they depend on the habits practiced by the children when they are on these media. For example, in cyberbullying, children are seen as victims of molestation. However, would it still be seen as cyber-bullying when a child sweet-talks an older person into an inappropriate act? Who should be held accountable? The same applies to sexting and exposure to inappropriate content. As such, the conversations that happen on Facebook affect both the children and adults in equal measure. This means that during these interactions, children as well as adults could be victims of circumstances. With this in mind, who is to be held accountable for (mis)using a social media platform?
In an interesting claim, Council on Communications and Media of American Academy of Pediatrics suggests pediatricians perform a survey for a child's media history by asking 2 questions: (1) For how long has a child has been exposed to social media? (2) What media devices are available in a child's bedroom? Parents, as well, are encouraged to create a media usage plan. This is, in fact, a useful suggestion which could be well incorporated into the investigation on social media practices of children.
The effects of children's usage of social media on educators, policy makers and entertainment producers remains unclear. Given present patterns, parental control remains the best solution. Yet, of all the parental controls, a functionality-based approach to monitoring children's media usage has proven ineffective. This is not only due to the development of more advanced gadgets which outsmart existing controls but also as a result of personal choice by parents (American Academy of Pediatrics 959). That is, if parents have a natural right to protect their children against child abuse, they also have a right to choose preferred media platforms and patterns for their children. The debate of who should control what is, indeed, controversial. However, millennial children represent a different generation of media consumers. Thus, their media devices and consumption patterns are different from those of the older generations.
Moreover, millennial children should be well represented in debates about media consumption, particularly social media. Such debates on Internet neutrality have been going on recently. Moreover, dialogues on social media consumption are also being carried out, whereby participants suggest what should define acceptable social media user practice. In exploring the impact of social media, one useful option is to create a social media plan (similar to one suggested by American Academy of Pediatricians for conventional and Internet-connected devices). This could be further developed into a psychometric application which could interpret children's behavioral patterns in social networks. This could assist in setting standards on the usage patterns that should be allowed for children.
In conclusion, it is clear that millennial children are very active in social networking and communication. Health risks are cited as most common hazards to using social media. However, cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” and sexting, are redefining what is shared on social media platforms. Protecting children against social media abuses should involve children's input as well as parental controls. A suggestion for increasing monitoring of children's social media consumption is to develop a media plan for devices and platforms that children normally use. Broadly, a global standard for social media consumption can be set. This should help parents, entertainment producers and policy makers reduce negative social media behavior. Moreover, this should be done gradually and with a well-defined criteria. The practice of investigating children's social media usage is still in its early phase and requires to be handled with care in order to make the online experiences of children enjoyable and useful.
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Children, Adolescents, and the Media." Pediatrics 132.5 (2013): 958-961. Web. 20 Jul. 2015.
O'Keeffe., Gwenn Schurgin., and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson. "The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families." Pediatrics 127.4 (2011) 800-804. Web. 20 Jul. 2015.
Strasburger, Victor., Amy Jordan., and Ed Donnerstein. "Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents." Pediatrics 125.4 (2010) 756-767. Web. 20 Jul. 2015.