We see the role of technology gradually inflate in every age group in our society including with the younger generation, but is this a positive or negative trend? Is our kids’ time scrolling enriching? Maybe. This attraction to social media can be used to improve the quality of life of these generations or to hinder already a naturally vulnerable group of people.
Instead of presenting you, my valued reader, with a mind-numbing article about how social media can both harm and benefit the younger generations, both directly and indirectly, I have given you short scenarios based on RL (real life) events we often see in the news.
One of the most basic characteristics of all social media platforms is perhaps their best and worst feature. The characteristic: Anyone can say anything from wherever they are at any time. This is great for young people who want to feel like they have a voice. But….Everyone has the same opportunity and some choose to make themselves feel important by making others feel worthless. Our kids are often encouraged to take various actions and develop certain beliefs about themselves, the world, and those in it, including their own families… you.
Here are some scenarios based on stories we often hear in the news or on, you guessed it, social media.
An impressionable 15-year-old girl believes that she has met the love of her life -all 15 years of her life- in a nice, interesting 17-year old boy with similar backgrounds and the hottest dimples on the planet. They agree to meet IRL and she finds herself sitting in front of Earl, a middle-aged truck driver with a receding hairline and a possibly hot laptop with a dependable internet connection. Why didn’t she tell someone before?
In another scenario, a 17-year-old who has been working on the weekdays and trying to enjoy the last glorious hour of Sunday night scrolling the newsfeed. He reads sees post after post and frog meme after frog meme about how awful Mondays are and how much working sucks. Did I mention, he already has several instances of aggressive behavior at work and school? What attitude will he take with him to the job?
11-year old Kenny is a bright little boy who knows how to override the parental controls on the internet with the help of his friendly Canadian buddy, 14-year old Mike, who he has never met. How did Mike excel at these skills but flunk algebra (algebra uses numbers, letters, and signs similar to HTML coding)? Mike regularly exchanges information with 17-year old Joe who gathers this information from Youtube video subscriptions.
A single mother, 35 years of age, is on the verge of losing her car because she has missed the last four car payments. Her friends and family start a donation page for her on social media. A couple of weeks later, she cannot only pay off the used 2004 sedan, she has enough left for gas for the rest of the month.
She can now take her 7-year old to school on-time and to reading classes at the YWCA and the baby to daycare. Not to mention, she gets to keep her full-time job that feeds and shelters these kids.
The latest flood has put thousands of people out of their homes and in need of basic daily supplies, including food. Yes, airing regular commercials has been a trusted and true method of appealing to audiences, but social platforms offer apps with notifications that go right to smartphones to a much bigger audience of varying ages. You can encourage people to donate with the quick click of a button making it easy for families to help each other.
Social media is used to help a greater number of families across the globe using simple, time-effective solutions, like clicking on an icon to help a family in need or show your support for a worthy cause. It can be a great tool to encourage younger generations to help people and educate themselves about other cultures.
It’s allowed people to keep jobs and houses and cars and get justice and find long-lost siblings and fight domestic abuse and… and… and.
However, when the younger generation is left with full, unlimited access to social media, the results may damage their sense of worth, social skills, behavior, and future. How can we keep this from happening when the brightest kids are the ones who find the best solutions around the “safeguards” and “strict rules” we set for them? By safeguarding their self-esteem and self-worth before they get their first smartphone or are allowed to go online.
The accessibility of parenting information from respected sources will help parents make 2018 the year to start building or continue to build a strong foundation for the younger generations by teaching them how to use social media wisely from a young age.