Social media is most often associated with worry for parents, or safety when it comes to children. There are some ways that social media can be helpful in the lives of kids and teens, especially during COVID times.
We all know the dangers of sexting, cyberbullying or FOMO. Social media is clearly not without its negatives. But, if it’s nothing but bad, how do we see good things come from it? Things like 2,000 students protest their school district’s budget cuts? How are teens taking the lead on cyberbullying? Think back to the national school walkout day to protest gun laws. How did they do that? The answer is easy: students made good use of social media. For a few years now, adults have been getting push back from teens in regard to social media. Many teens have been saying that despite its flaws, social media is a positive force. New research is even shedding light when kids connect, share and learn online.
As more kids begin to use tools such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and even YouTube, it’s important that they also learn the responsibility and even danger, that comes with broadcasting to the world. This is, of course, where we, as the adults still need to do our jobs of being actively involved in what our children are doing. This means in the cyber world as well! As caring adults, we can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting the importance social media may be playing in kids lives. Even more important is to help them add real value to their lives. Here are a few benefits of our children being social media wise:
It lets them do good. Twitter, Facebook, and other large social media networks expose kids to important issues and people from all over the world. Kids are keenly aware that they have a voice they didn’t have before. Children have used this voice to already crowdfund social justice projects to anonymously tweet positive thoughts. Help your kids find these sites that help them do good.
It strengthens friendships. Studies from multiple respected groups such as the Pew Research Center, show that social media helps teens make friends and keep them. Again, it’s important for their caring adults to be an active participant, walking with your child not only as support, but also as a wary eye.
It provides genuine support. Online acceptance-whether a child is interested in an unusual subject that may not be “cool,” or is grappling with other hard life issues-can validate a marginalized kid. As with the first three, this doesn’t mean that parents don’t need to be involved as well. Social media can be a bonus support network for kids, but the goal should never be for it to be the only one.
It can offer a sense of belonging. While heavy social media use can isolate kids, studies have shown that although our teens have fewer friends than their historical counterparts, they are less lonely than in past decades. They report feeling less isolated and have actually become more socially adept, partly due to to an increase in technology use.
It helps them express themselves. The popularity of fan fiction (original stories based on existing material that people write and upload online) proves how strong the desire for self-expression is. Both producers and performers can satisfy this need through social media. Digital technology allows kids to share their work with a wider audience and even work with partners all over the world. This is certainly a great skill to have in the 21st century work place. If they’re really serious, social media can give feedback essential for kids as they hone their craft.
Social media can help our children in many ways. As with anything in life, moderation is important and adult supervision is still important. Active participation in our children’s lives and concern for where with whom they interact with on social media is still important. When we do this, social media can be a force for good in their lives.