A great post this week from Harriet Smithers who is an Early Childhood Studies student.
Children’s social media use is growing. This has been highlighted in Ofcom’s annual Children and Parent’s Media Attitudes report. The report highlights that 74% of children aged between 12 and 15 have a social media profile. As well as children’s social media growing, their online presence is also increasing. By a child’s fifth birthday a parent will on average have uploaded one thousand five hundred photos of them on social media. This has caused many concerns surrounding the potential dangers that social media poses to children. Dangers often highlighted include; meeting strangers online, accessing harmful information and cyberbullying.
A moral panic surrounding children using social media has been created. A moral panic is a public response to threats to the standards of society. They are a representation of people’s fears. The mass media will use moral panics to sell stories and often in the process create misleading reports that will often be published in newspapers and online. An example of this is the fear that children are going to meet up with strangers they have met online. Only 9% of children have met up with someone in real life that they have met online and of these only 1% of children were bothered by this meeting. This shows that the moral panic created by the media that suggests children are constantly meeting up with strangers and this meeting results in a harmful or dangerous situation is exaggerated.
The moral panic surrounding children and social media has resulted in a limit in the understanding of the vast amount of benefits social media use can provide for children. These benefits include; socialising with people who have similar interests; staying in contact with friends and family; access to a vast amount of information that could aid learning and developing media literacy skills.
The benefits of social media can be increased by ensuring that all children are using social media in a safe way. There are a number of strategies that can be used to do this. They include; having internet safety lessons at school; placing parental restrictions on computers; educating parents on how to keep children safe online and creating child-friendly social media sights.
It is evident that there are many benefits that social media can provide for children. These are often overlooked in favour of the potentially negative effects. This could be because social media is new and the long-term effects of using it are unknown. However, social media use continues to grow, and children are becoming interested at a much younger age. So rather than trying to hide children from it, I feel children should be allowed to use social media and benefit from all of its positive aspects. This being said I feel parents and children need to be educated on how to stay safe on social media and use social media appropriately. What are your thoughts? Is social media benefiting children or harming them?
Thanks Harriet – lots for us to think about here!