Your kids don’t need social media | by Lance Ulanoff | Sep 2021
Facebook is awakening to what some of us knew all along
Photo by dole777 on Unsplash
F.Acebook’s head-shaking, obvious decision to halt Instagram development for kids is not only the right move, but an important apparent admission that social media is not for everyone.
The announcement comes months after Facebook announced it was working on experiences especially for tweens (11-13). This part has been condensed into a blog post on the difficulty of keeping minors (under 13) away from their services. As Facebook noted, it’s easy to lie about your age online (yes, online, nobody knows – still – if you are a dog). The social media giant was just beginning to use artificial intelligence to protect younger users (between the ages of 13 and 18) from inappropriate adult content and contacts on their platforms.
It was a sign that Facebook was aware of the tensions that were building to attract more young people (13 and older) to these platforms while protecting them. This made the rather numb plans of basically creating an Instagram kids even more annoying.
I understand the intent that Facebook outlined in the same post:
We believe the right way to encourage them to use an age-appropriate and parent-managed experience is the right way. It will take a village to make this experience convincing that this age group would want to take advantage of it, but we are determined to get it right.
This wasn’t necessarily a stupid or impossible dream. If Disney’s Club Penguin has proven anything, it is that you can build a safe platform for kids that is just as addicting as Instagram. Disney closed this platform in 2017, perhaps before Mark Zuckerberg realized he could buy it.
Even before that, children had adopted the same platforms (like AIM and Facebook, but mostly without Twitter) that their parents used and are still using today. TikTok is a perfect example. Pre-tweens download, lie about their age, and install the hugely popular app. However, instead of discovering it by parents and closing the door, the kids usually teach their parents a TikTok dance and then design it to appear in subsequent videos.
I think it’s good that parents and children do this together (which, in my opinion, is also the goal of Facebook). I remember trying to sit with my kids when they were on Club Penguin and just found it incredibly boring.
In doing so, however, we neglect the core question: Should children even be on social media?
Recent reports and studies refuting Facebook reveal the harmful effects on young people. Less, it seems, is known about tweens (though I imagine it is just as bad) and children. There are some worrying studies that have explored the growing number of hours children and tweens spend on these platforms every day.
After graduation, I came to the conclusion that social media is probably bad for everyone before the age of 18.
I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but I am increasingly concerned that a young life lived through social media is not life at all.
Some scientists believe that the soft gray matter between our ears will develop well into our 20s and most studies now claim that puberty does not mark the moment of brain maturation.
We know that tween and early teen years are particularly difficult times for adolescents in the real world and these issues are only amplified by the social media kaleidoscope where praise and insults, happiness and anger, appreciation and bullying are reduced and intensified and ours Coating awareness like a poisonous glue.
Adults who have weathered storms in real life are likely better equipped to deal with all of this. Teens probably not. Tweens and kids, absolutely not.
What our kids need is less screen time and more eye time. There is no substitute for what young people can learn through direct interaction with other people. It’s fairly accepted wisdom that young children, especially preschoolers, thrive through social interaction. It helps in building communication skills, learning, coping, and emotional health.
I think it could be a reason that this type of engagement is an integral part of healthy spiritual development into young adulthood. However, rather than bringing us closer together through technology and social media, I think it has become a substitute for face-to-face human interaction for some young people right when they are likely to need more of it.
After surrounding myself with technology, gadgets, software, and social media for decades, I’m the last person to preach tech moderation. Nevertheless, I cannot escape the nagging feeling that has been growing inside me for years: that our young people, who are now reaching young adulthood, could have been harmed by the years of presence and use of social media. They are not really social animals in the old sense of the word. They often don’t know how to talk to other people, how to talk to strangers when necessary, or how to operate in stressful environments.
However, there is no doubt that people are fed up with Facebook’s insistence that it can connect anyone in the world. His products are simply not suitable for everyone or all ages.
Listen, I like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok and use them every day. However, if I still had young children, I would keep them off any form of social media until they are 16 (maybe even 18). It would be a struggle, but whatever I might suffer in the short term, it would be worth it in the long run.
Plus, we don’t really need Instagram for kids.