Social Media Literacy for Children
Looking around my home, there are countless devices readily available; tucked away in every corner, connected to the internet. I assume that your home probably looks similar to mine. Because technology is so easily accessible, it is important for your children to develop a strong sense of media literacy to navigate the social media sphere, its benefits, and its harms. Children and adolescents alike are at the age where they are easily influenced by the content they see on social media. Whether it is something as small as changing the way they do their hair or something much larger like altering their eating habits, there is no doubt that social media has a profound impact on children.
Some Dangers of Social Media
It is critical to recognize the potential dangers of social media. Research by CHILDREN AT RISK highlights 3 potential dangers of social media:
The many ways in which media users can be impacted by mental health include lower self-esteem, an increase in anxiety and depression, as well an increased risk of suicide and self-harm.
Because internet users can hide behind a screen, many can become victims of cyberbullying. This includes receiving harmful content, being humiliated, having information exposed, being a victim of hate speech, and more.
Computer use significantly minimizes the daily physical activity that is needed. Being in a static state while over-engaging in social media could lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, poorer vision, and less sleep.
Some Benefits of Social Media
Despite the dangers of social media, there are benefits. According to a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, authors Clarke-Pearson and O’Keeffe, suggest that social media has the following benefits:
Allows for Socialization and Communication
Social media’s most basic and fundamental purpose is to allow users to connect with each other. It can be through a message or chat, seeing the picture of your latest sister-in-law’s birthday, making new friends, engaging in discussion, and so much more. It essentially provides a space for us to get together and interact.
Optimized Learning Experiences
Although social media has the word “social” in it, social can also be applied in an educational sense. Students can use social media platforms to collaborate, work on group projects or share ideas.
Access to Beneficial Information
Although your children have the possibility of running across misinformation, there is also a high likelihood of them finding valuable information through social media. It could be information about current events, health, history, or a plethora of facts they can find.
Parents need to determine the appropriate level of social media for their children. There are approaches you can take with your children to encourage media literacy and a safer online experience.
Ways to Increase Media Literacy in Children
The PEW Research Centre and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers the following suggestions:
Have a Discussion
The simplest, yet most challenging, thing you can do is have a discussion with your kids about social media. A talk can include what should be posted on your kids’ social media accounts, what is real or fake, what to respond to, and what to share. This will minimize harm and encourage critical thinking.
Explore Privacy and Security Options
There are multiple security features that can be turned on for the protection of your kids. Having a private account as opposed to a public one, and turning off comments on a post, can mitigate negative social media interactions. Additionally, turning off “location” and restricting other people’s access to see your kids’ personal information may help.
Identify Platforms that are Age-Appropriate
This might be a challenge, as inappropriate content will always find a way to infiltrate kid-friendly platforms. Regardless, certain social media platforms are more geared towards a specific age. For instance, Twitter users are supposed to be 18+ and not for kids.
Limitation of Screen-Time
Screen-time should be limited and restricted to certain times of the day. For instance, your kids should not be accessing their devices during class, during family time, or right before bedtime. If this becomes a problem, you can take away the devices. You could also enforce parental controls to restrict the time of usage.
Credibility of Sources
For older kids who are more experience with tracking down sources, it is good practice to encourage them to see what sources the content they’re consuming is coming from. Is it coming from a reputable source? Following this, have a conversation surrounding what is and isn’t a credible source.
Social media can be a challenging topic. What’s important is to equip your kids with the skills, strategies, and knowledge they need to manoeuvre around potential harms. This is an ongoing journey and process that includes all of us, as social media continually changes.