Is Social Media Really the Problem?

I apologize in advance for the long post/rant that follows….

Social media and children is a prevalent topic in our society. Sadly, the conversation is one which gains needed attention after it’s too late.

For our A2 assignment I chose to write a report on social media and children (for the purpose of this post a “child” is anyone under the age of 18), doing so has caused me numerous days of consideration; how do we keep children safe online? Should children even be allowed to use social media? Is there any benefit? If the answer is no, then how do you stop a child from using social media? But most importantly, who is ultimately responsible for keeping children safe online?

Why is there yet to be a solution? Well, much like drug trafficking, dangerous driving and MTV’s “16 and pregnant”, I don’t think this is something that can ever be completely stopped, however, it can be drastically minimized.

I believe part (PART, like 10%) of the solution to minimizing the risks of children using social media is in education. The current school system desperately needs to be updated beyond basic academics to  include life skills. Schools should be placing an  emphasis on online privacy, empathy, and respect and kindness for others (among other things, like how to do your taxes and form proper budgets), because lets face it, as i’m about to discuss, some parent’s suck and don’t teach their kids these types of things.

So, that being said, the other 90% of the solution is in fixing the lazy parents.  I’m calling all you lazy parents out! A lot of you guys are really pissing me off. It’s up to you to know what the hell is going on and deal with it. Not knowing how to use a social media platform is inexcusable and unacceptable. If your kid tells you that they’re talking to someone on “Kik” or they saw a picture on “Instagram” and you have no idea what the eff they’re talking about, it’s time to pull out that iPhone, download the apps your kids are using and educate yourself.  Parents need to know how to work the social media sites their kids are on. They need to know statistics, associated risks and best practises in keeping their child safe. It’s time to step up to the plate and play a larger role in protecting your child online. Stop wanting to be your child’s “friend” and act like a freaking parent.

“I didn’t know…[she was having cyber sex]…[he was harassing other kids]…[he was being bullied]….[she was chatting with strangers online]… [it’s possible for strangers to view my kids pictures] is, as my 10th grade physics teacher would say, “not an excuse, it’s a reason”. It is the reason your kid is in a bad situation, because you didn’t know what was going on and therefor did not know how to protect your child. It is NOT an explanation you can put forward to justify what is or has happened. It’s time for parents to take a good hard look at themselves and consider that maybe social media isn’t the problem, maybe  *gasp* they are the problem. It isn’t up to Facebook, to the government or to any one else to keep your child safe, it’s up to YOU.

For any of  you that think I’m  a freak and are wondering if I secretly have a child of my own because, why else would I care so much about kids online? You’re wrong, I have no secret children, but I do have two young (like not even in high school yet) siblings, and I also have two extremely lazy parents so, naturally i’ve got a strong opinion about this. For any of you who are blind to the world and don’t know that social media and the Internet is a dangerous place for kids, here are some facts to consider…

  • 29% of Internet sex crimes were initiated on a social networking site
  • In 26% of online sex crimes against minors, offenders gathered information and/or pictures of the victim through the victim’s personal social networking sites.
  • 33% of all Internet sex crimes involve the use of social media
  • 65% of children report being a victim of cyber bullying
  • 5% of children who use social media show signs of depression*
  • Using social media has been shown to increase the potential for anxiety, increase aggressive and violent thoughts, increase self doubt, lower self esteem, increase insomnia, lower GPA, attribute to mood swings and irritability.

*The New York Times reports that there are 3.6 million  American Facebook users under the age of 12. Five percent of this is 180,000. One hundred and eighty thousand children under the age of 12 showing signs of depression, how upsetting is that? If you’re under 12 you should be trading pokemon cards, or whatever type of weird Japanese anime is popular right now (do kids still do that?… probably not, they’re too busy on social media giving me stuff to talk about), not showing signs of depression.

So, where am I going with all this? You’re probably hoping I have some witty, insightful way to end this thing but sadly, I do not. I just thought it should be known that i’m really tired of people complaining that websites like Facebook aren’t safe enough. You know what, you’re right, they’re not safe, but, sorry to say it, Facebook is a business and they’re doing what they do to make money, not to teach your 13 year old daughter that talking to “that cute boy from L.A” probably means they’re talking to an old fat man from Mississippi. So basically, next time you see a lazy parent complaining that social media isn’t safe for their kids, tell them to shut the hell up, smarten up and teach themselves and their kid a thing or two. Guess what, crossing the street isn’t always safe, but we all do it and it’s only the idiots who get hurt. Social Media can be the same way too.

if you have the time to watch this 5 minute  anti bullying video, I highly recommend it. Keep the kleenex close by though.

Giving credit where credit is due…

http://org.kidshelpphone.ca/media/80712/2012-cir-cyberbullying.pdf.

http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/antisocial_networking_how_do_texting_social_media_affect_our_children_panel_discussion_csc_

http://sociallyactive.com/social-media-effect/.

http://www.jahonline.org/article/PIIS1054139X10000303/abstract

http://www.internetsafety101.org/Socialnetworkingstats.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/12/technology/internet/12underage.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

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