When life was free of social media
When I was raising my children back in the eighties, my only concern was to keep their screen time under check; no TV time until homework is done. I did not subscribe to cable television until my children were in college. I didn’t even have the internet to deal with. Now, as a 77-year-old grandfather learning about the powers of social media, I am so glad that there was none of it when I was raising my children.
It’s not technophobia. Being an engineer, my joy knew no bounds when the internet arrived at my workplace in the early 1990s. I was one of the few engineers who pushed the management to computerize all our data and allow us access to the internet.
I started tinkering with social media around 12 years ago, when I joined Facebook and Twitter, simply out of curiosity. I use these platforms primarily to share photos, articles, and my views on policy issues – topics that I think are either entertaining or educational.
I am intentional about how I use social media and what I post. But that’s not always how the youth – our digital natives – are using it.
Social Media and Mental Health
Social media has negatively impacted many young lives and legislators are now moving to mitigate some of the damage. In May this year, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory warning about the adverse impact social media has on youth mental health.
In a press statement, Dr. Murthy said: “The most common question parents ask me is, ‘is social media safe for my kids’. The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health …We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.”
Many top tech executives have strict rules about how much time their own children can spend on social media because they know how addictive these algorithms are. That itself should motivate us to control our children’s usage of these platforms.
Since my grandchildren are now teenagers, I wonder whether it’s a good idea for them to join social media. What they end up doing would be decided by their parents, but I wanted to do my own research on this issue.
On the Bright Side
Connecting with others: Social media allows high school children to connect with friends, family members, and others who share similar interests. This can help them develop stronger relationships and a sense of community.
Learning opportunities: Social media platforms such as YouTube and LinkedIn can provide children with valuable learning opportunities. For example, children can use YouTube to access educational videos and tutorials, while LinkedIn can help them network and connect with professionals in their desired career fields.
Creativity and self-expression: Social media allows children to express themselves creatively through writing, artwork, photography, and other forms of media. This can help them develop their personal identities and explore new interests.
The Bad and the Ugly
Cyberbullying: Social media can be a platform for cyberbullying, which can lead to negative psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicides in some cases.
Time consumption: Social media can be addictive, and excessive use can lead to time management issues, as well as a decrease in productivity and academic performance.
Privacy and safety concerns: Social media can expose children to online predators, as well as violence, sexual content, and cybercrimes such as identity theft and fraud.
My Take on Tech and Social Media
It is important to note that the impact of social media on children may vary based on individual circumstances. Rather than either discouraging or promoting social media use, educating students on responsible social media use may be more effective and help them develop the skills to navigate the digital world safely.
- While I believe that children must be tech-savvy and conversant with the internet and its applications, they should try to avoid social media because its disadvantages seem to outweigh its advantages.
- Akin to video games, social media can be addictive. Most children don’t have enough self-control, discipline, and good judgment to limit its usage, irrespective of how much they get nagged by their parents.
- Children spend enough time on the computer doing homework, chatting with friends, and playing video games. Spending time on social media adds to screen time.
- It’s better for children to spend in-person, quality time with parents, siblings, extended family members, and close friends; social media cannot be as emotionally fulfilling as in-person time spent with loved ones.
- It’s better for children to spend more time and energy on extracurricular activities that they are passionate about than on social media.
- Sometimes college recruiters and even prospective employers check out an applicant’s social media activities. An inappropriate post can bias them against an applicant, so why take a chance? My research indicates that colleges do not typically view a lack of social media activity negatively in the admissions process. While some colleges may review applicants’ social media profiles as part of the admissions process, they do not typically require students to have social media accounts or penalize applicants who do not have an online presence. In fact, a lack of social media activity may be viewed positively by some admissions officers, as it may suggest that the applicant has been more focused on other activities, such as academics, extracurriculars, or community service.
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