They say there are only two absolute things in life: death and taxes. However, in this fast-paced generation, you might want to add one more: kids and the Internet are inseperable.
It doesn't matter if a child's not old enough to read, literacy''s not an issue when it comes to using the Internet. Research group Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an organization affiliated with Sesame Street, found that a quarter of young children under age six are surfing the Internet regularly, with many parents passing on their old smart phones for their kids to play with. And aside from serving as trendy toys, modern gadgets are also, for some, serving as a babysitting device - when kids are immersed in an online game, parents can proceed with other tasks.
There also seems to be a new rite of passage as young children discover social media as a new tool to socialize - i.e. baby's first social media profile picture, baby's first status update and baby's first "Like." This is because more and more kids are opening accounts on social networking sites - research by Opinium revealed that 59% of kids below the age of 10 have joined social media, with some 52% signing up on Facebook (despite the Facebook entry threshold being 13). And those numbers are much higher among teens - according to a Pew Research, 95% ages 12-17 are online with 81% using some kind of social media.
Kids on social media networks can be a scary scenario for parents, however with proper guidance, the effects of modern gadgets on child development can also be largely beneficial.
Here are some of the ways that social media platforms can be of benefit to kids.
1. Feeling confident
Social media can help young children feel more comfortable about communicating and being around others. When they click "Like" or comment on a post, they gain confidence and become less shy. A Common Sense Media study showed that 29% of teens using social media felt that it it helped them feel less shy, while 20% indicated that it can help them feel more confident. When a child appears to be introverted and awkward around other people, social media interactions can assist in the process of building that confidence and developing a better understanding of how to communicate.
2. Feeling friendly
Social media can also help in boosting social interaction among kids - it's a more comfortable environment where children can initiate new relationships without feeling awkward and anxious.
Social platforms can help kids make friends and enable them to build more familiarity with other children. When they greet a friend or Like a photo, they start a virtual interaction, giving them a chance to practice their social skills with the relative distance and safety that social media offers.
3. Feeling connected
Technology was made to connect people and strengthen relationships. Social media can help improve family relationships and be a shared interest among family members.
Interacting via social networking sites can provide a sort of a safety net, helping children to be more honest when they're posting updates or tweets. Through social media, parents can get a better idea of what their children are feeling, thinking, and doing.
For some, it can form a kind of point of entry into their child's life - viewing photos of friends and other contacts or going through a timeline can be a moment of discovery for both the parent and the child, and can help open those lines of communication and understanding.
4. Feeling smart
The Internet is a web of information, and social media is no exemption.
A report by Globe and Mail indicated that social media is actually making kids smarter. Aside from improved social skills, social media can also help improve cognitive abilities, like problem solving skills, comprehension, critical thinking, and memory. For example, they learn to critically discern which information is useful and which is not.
In a related study, the e-Learning Foundation showed that children with Internet access at home get higher grades.
5. Feeling informed
In addition to helping school children with their research and assignments, the internet can also provide them with insights useful in their daily lives.
When you log on to social media, you can find news events, helpful tips, the latest in music, movies, and sports, etc. Social media can help kids understand what's happening and what they need to know.
6. Feeling helpful
Researchers from Iowa University found that pro-social video games, or games that require interaction via social platforms, can encourage better behavior and tolerance for others. The study revealed that kids tend to be more helpful after playing pro-social games.
This is another reason why parents should allow their kids to use social media: children can become more compassionate and empathetic, and even feel like they have to protect their friends and share stuff with them. Pro-social video games can also reduce aggressive cognitions.
7. Feeling relaxed
Social media can help mitigate stress by providing an outlet through which children can express their disappointments, frustrations, and fears.
It can also provide additional social support from a wide range of people. At the same time, social media can also be a means of distraction that can help children get over stressful experiences.
8. Feeling welcome
Being part of a social network can make a child feel that he is part of something bigger than himself. The feeling of belonging to a network can help in building a child's self-belief and confidence, while also enhancing a child's sense of responsibility and connection to his "team". In a social network, kids can generate shared experiences with their friends and feel appreciated and loved.
Social media is here to stay and yes, it can help. Allowing your kids to use social media comes with a list of pros and cons, but when parents commit themselves to providing guidance and watching over the child's online activities, social media can help in a child's development.The impact of technology and social media doesn't depend on technology itself, but how parents educate and inform their children about them, and set realistic parameters around their use.
Main image via Lucella Ribiero/Flickr