Social Media will most certainly be an important part of the lives of teens and young adults. However, social media is also the riskiest form of technology for children and teens to interact with. Brookwood strongly recommends that parents wait until at least 7th/8th grade before allowing your child to participate in social media web sites and apps. This includes the very popular apps: Instagram and Snapchat. Other popular apps and sites include Kik, Keek, and Tumblr. New apps are being developed all the time and parents will want to explore new sites and apps that they may find on their child's smartphone and i-device.
There is more research coming out that speaks to the negative impact that social media has on teens in particular because of the way they use it. Read this article, for example that shows how social media is negatively impacting sleep for teens.
Also, there are some revealing articles how social media targets emotionally vulnerable teens and tries to be addictive (ie. think of "streaks" in Snapchat) For example read:
or listen to the April 9, 2017 60 Minutes piece called "Brain Hacking"
Another concern that teens of all ages have difficulty realizing is the reality of online privacy. "Online privacy" is really an oxymoron. There are so few places and ways that teens interact online that is truly private. And sometimes, teens make poor choices because they think something is private. These poor choices can have serious consequences. For example in June, 2017 Harvard University rescinded the admissions offer of ten incoming students because of messages and memes they exchanged in a "private" chat group. Read the article in the Washington Post: Harvard Withdraws 10 Acceptances for Offensive Memes in Private Chat
And if you are wondering what social media is popular with teens, read this February, 2017 article published on CNBC titled: Teens explain how they really use Snapchat and Instagram, and why Facebook still matters
REGARDING SOCIAL NETWORKS (If parents decide to permit their children to use social media)
1. It’s important for parents to have the passwords to all Internet-related accounts that their children use, including email. Rather than “friend” a child, parents can then log into a child’s account routinely as the best means to monitor safety and appropriate use. (This includes a periodic check on children’s texts if your child has texting abilities on any device.)
2. Parents should check on the privacy settings with their child periodically because privacy settings and terms-of-use often change. Sometimes sweeping changes by services will open up privacy settings more broadly than users expect.
3. It is best not to “friend” a “friend of a friend”. Allowing strangers to “follow” posts, tweets, or images is not a good idea, and often increases risks for inappropriate content or contact from others.
4. Posting photos or videos can be a risky business. Set very clear expectations for children about posting or uploading photos or videos of themselves to the Internet. It should be clear to children that they are not allowed to upload or post photos or videos of other children to the Internet without permission from the other child’s parents, and this is especially true concerning “selfie” photos and/or videos.
5. Elementary and Middle School students difficulties managing social media accounts such as with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Kik, Keek, or Vine (a list that changes as fast as we can type it!). Even relatively benign introductory social networks that have online chatting capabilities, such as Club Penguin, WebKinz, and many gaming communities (such as Minecraft), are best set up with chatting capabilities turned off.
6. Sites and apps that encourage anonymous communication, or communication between strangers, are widely known to promote the most extreme forms of bullying and harassment. (For a list of some of these, visit our resource on Smartphone Technology.) NOTE: There are many smartphone apps that are not appropriate for young teens but are attracting their attention and use including "Hot or Not," "Chance," "Sneak," and "Yik Yak." This website has a good description of the issues and apps:
7. Considering the overall risks, there is no compelling reason, other than peer pressure, for younger children to have their own personal email, Skype, Facetime or texting ability until about sixth grade. And no reason for them to have social media accounts or smartphones. These accounts and devices offer far more risks, increased social pressure and anxiety, than true value.
8. It is important that children not sign up for accounts or release any personal information to web sites, apps or online services without the participation and permission from a parent.
9. FYI, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their recommendations in October 2013 to be no more than 2 hours of screen time for children per day. Younger children should have less screen time than older children, including time with iPads. In October, 2016 the AAP updated their recommendations for toddlers, stating that children up to 24 months should have severely limited use of technology. (Visit AAP.org for more details.)
10. Advise your children that it’s not a good idea to use any form of technology to resolve conflict or when they are emotional. If they are angry, hurt or upset about something and wish to communicate with anyone, face-to-face communication is far more valuable to resolve conflict. (If face-to-face is not possible, then video chat or voice is still far better than communication through any form of text/posts.)
11. FYI, SnapChat app gives a completely false sense that photos are private and the sender has control over the photo once sent. Neither of these things is true.
12. It is always a good idea to remind your kids to report anything uncomfortable to you.
13. If you allow your child to use Instagram, you'll want to understand the social pressure that leads some young teens to create a "Finsta" account versus their "Rinsta" account. Read On Fake Instagram, A Chance to be Real by Valeriya Safronova and published on NYTimes.com)
NOTE: If you are looking for a greater understanding of social networks and apps, read this 19-year olds article called "A Teenager's View on Social Media." However, it is important to note that the article is not written from the perspective of age-appropriate use or developmental levels of children. It is just an explanation of the purpose and popularity of social media and apps. Also be sure to read the popup comment bubbles on the right side of the paragraphs. Some are quite revealing and interesting.
British researchers published a study in early September, 2015 about the impact of constant social media use on the emotional health of teens.
Read a summary of the findings on HealthDay.com.
Specific Recommendations: http://www.brookwood.edu/technology-specific-recommendations
Lastest Research: http://www.brookwood.edu/technology-latest-research
Technology Contracts for Kids: http://www.brookwood.edu/technology-contracts-kids
Specific Issues and Concerns About:
Video Games: http://www.brookwood.edu/technology-video-games