Social Media for Kids: Is it alright?

I just got back from the States, and I’m having dinner with my mother’s family in a casual restaurant. I sit across the table from 3 of my cousins — 8, 11, and 14 years old respectively. The eldest, a girl, is texting her friend through Facebook messenger using her new iPhone 6S. The middle boy has his nose glued to his sister’s old iPhone 5S, watching some funny video on YouTube, with his younger brother leaning over his shoulder watching with him. Another family is being seated next to our table. Immediately, the young mother pulls an iPad out of her handbag and places it in front of her infant daughter (who cannot even speak a coherent sentence), and unlocks it for the child to watch an episode of Thomas & Friends.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “Since when did THIS become normal?” When I was their age, all I had was the TV and newspapers. What I did to entertain myself at family dinners was play with the fork and spoon, and stare mindlessly into space.

I then asked myself two questions: Isn’t it weird for children so young to be addicted to technology? Won’t kids be imperilled to the same things that we adults are?

The answers are yes, and yes. While this may work out in the favour of big corporations seeking to expand their reach, the effects are apparent. Children are becoming more prone to the pros and cons of social media. And as social media marketing is become even bigger today, they are also turning into unintentional target markets for good and bad products. [1]

I’m sure all of us who’ve been exposed to media can name one memorable advertisement from their childhood. For me, it’s that one Carlsberg commercial in cinemas that featured a bunch of young adults in a cool bar blowing the tune of “Can’t take my eyes off of you” using Carlsberg bottles. I mean, who in that era wouldn’t recognize that chorus? And the worst part is, I am now an avid drinker of Carlsberg. Coincidence? I think not. Scary? Yes, very.

Carlsberg Ad

As mentioned, the game of advertising today has changed — almost everything is now online and available through social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Game changing, yet children will still be children — easy to influence, susceptible to trends, and making a big fuss when they don’t get the latest gaming console. Most people would agree that influencing a child below the age of 12 to buy something would be pretty immoral. In fact, in many countries advertising to children is restricted. But honestly, how much can that help? With the internet, children are just a few clicks away from watching inappropriate videos, buying a toy with their parent’s card, talking to creeps whom they’ve never met, and the list goes on. Even with parental blocks, it is impossible to keep children from being subjected to the same materials that we read, view and watch every single day.

Just look around you. Smartphones are everywhere. Social media is everywhere. Everybody wants to be connected, because in order to be somebody, you have to be connected. Of course, the convenience social media presents is huge. We can talk to friends halfway across the globe for free. This is something that was not feasible even 10 years ago. However, are we progressing so fast that we’re neglecting the effects of social media on children?

We, the role models, are also slaves to technology, and this in turn has spread to children. I remember being on the subway in New York. Majority of the passengers were glued to some sort of device, whether it was listening to music, reading an e-book, or browsing through timelines, the outcome is the same. [2]

So, before I ask you, “Is it alright for children to be so involved in social media?” ask yourself, “Is it alright for me to be so involved in social media?”


[1] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/advertising-to-children-tricky-business-subway
[2] http://www.today.com/series/wired/does-he-love-his-cellphone-more-you-survey-t47046
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