Do you find yourself constantly checking your phone? Many people do, and it’s a distracting habit mainly caused by notifications or updates that come from social media or/and chats. Social media is a large part of an adult’s daily life, but should it be for children too? Though social media allows children to socialize more, children under 16 years should be prohibited from owning social media accounts as they risk being exposed to improper content, content that they upload can be preserved even if recalled, and when asked to study or do work in class or at home, children are distracted by social media.
As a start, if children are allowed to have social media accounts, then they are at a much greater risk of being exposed to inappropriate content. All social media platform algorithms make it extremely easy to browse through loads and loads of data and recommend similar things based on a user’s activity, examples of which include Youtube’s main page and sidebar, twitter’s #explore page, etc. With a single click, your child can unknowingly open inappropriate content, and open profiles that provide bad influences and suggestive content. In fact, 44% of tweens admitted they’ve watched something online that their parents wouldn’t approve of. Recommendations help your child discover new topics, but those can also include topics unsuitable for youth. Children are facing the looming possibility of exposure to improper content, and that’s a lot more to fear than just the excuse for a child’s “entertainment”.
What’s more, any embarrassing content uploaded cannot be taken back if saved by someone else. Children would most likely think that if they ever did not like a post, they could just delete it, but that is just not how social media works. Once the content gets screenshotted or downloaded, shared or not, it becomes almost impossible to erase it and can cause damage to the child’s long-term future, such as an unintentionally racist comment. To help further illustrate my point, let me talk about Justine Sacco. On Dec. 20, before the final leg of her trip to Cape Town, Sacco tweeted a small joke:
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
She checked her phone, and as expected, she got no replies from her 170 Twitter followers, so she boarded the plane and went to sleep. When she woke up, her Twitter feed had become a horror show, filled with thousands of tweets such as:
“Really has no words for that horribly disgusting racist as f*ck tweet from Justine Sacco. I am beyond horrified.”
“In light of @Justine-Sacco disgusting racist tweet, I’m donating to @care today”
Justine got fired from her job, too.
If an adult was targeted in such a way, then what do you think might happen to a child? The world wouldn’t even know that it was a child they were humiliating. The content may not be regretful for the child once they upload it, but it can and will be later in life. In basic terms, children are not developed enough to know what adults might consider embarrassing or rude, so granting them a media account would allow them to make these kinds of statements that they don’t really mean.
Correspondingly, social media distracts children. When it comes to homework, there are a multitude of things that can keep homework an afterthought for kids, which social media plays a large part in. In the classroom, it’s no different. Likes, comments, and posts can all be super distracting, and notifications from chats can arise at any time. Children love positive feedback, even in digital format, so once your child gets a few, checking for them can become an obsessive habit. Actually, about 22% of all teenagers log into their favorite social media platform more than 10 times a day. On platforms like Instagram or Tik-Tok, it’s quite easy for a youth to chat with a stranger, just follow someone and click “message”. Otherwise, when it is not your child choosing who to chat with, and a stranger randomly texting, then they can spam your notifications, leaving a ding-ding sound on repeat, which is annoying. If you think you can just delete them from your contacts, you’re sorely mistaken, because they’ll have your number.
All things considered, it is plain to see that children under 16 years should be prohibited from owning social media accounts. If allowed, they can stumble upon content that is not suitable for their age, post content they can’t take back, and continuously be distracted when they should be focusing instead. As a parent or as a child, it helps to know the dangers of owning a social media account, so you can better protect your child or yourself when handling such affairs. We, as a society, should prioritize a kid’s safety before their entertainment, but also think about what they want first, so talk to your kids about all of these dangers before limiting use on any of their social media accounts.