Introduction-A Shocking Story
Social Media: A blessing or a curse on children? I read in the news recently that a 10-year old female pupil of a renowned school in Lagos, Nigeria that was gang-raped by four of her classmates while on a trip to Dubai. There is speculation based on findings from the social media account of the girl involved that it wasn’t a rape, that the girl consented to the act. The social media account of the said girl revealed that she had a page which she regularly posted illicit and erotic moves with over 24,000 people following her!
A 10-year-old girl!
What is this world turning into?
Could this social media be causing more harm than good?
How do we save our kids from the perils of Social Media?
Well, this article will answer these questions and many others. Just ensure you read to the end carefully.
Before I proceed, let me give you a brief introduction to the term SOCIAL MEDIA.
What is the Social Media?
According to Investopedia, Social Media is simply a means of interaction among people in which they create, share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.
Social media started out as a means of interacting with family and friends. Much later, businesses adopted social media as a means of improving their brands and reaching out to their customers.
Social media is so powerful that it gives one the ability to connect and share information with anyone on the surface of the earth.
Social Media and Children
According to the Pew Research Center, social media users tend to be younger, nearly 90% between the ages of 18 and 29. A 2018 Study by Hope lab and Well Being Trust also revealed that 93% of youth age between 14-27 use social media, most daily.
The above statistics reveal that the young ones make use of social media a lot.
Social media has the ability to influence children in the following ways:
- The way they feel
- Learning process
- The way they think
- Their behavioral pattern
Now, let us consider how social media has been able to influence children positively.
Positive Impact of Social Media on Children
The Social media has over time been able to influence the young ones in some amazingly positive ways:
- Improved Learning: When the Covid-19 lockdown started in 2020, schools were forced to shut down for over a term. Pupils had to stay at home with their parents. After a while, some schools came up with the initiative to use social media to continue the learning process. This initiative was warmly welcomed by many parents. Social media platforms like WhatsApp, zoom, Google meet, Google Classroom were employed to continue the learning process while the pupils stayed safe at home. Eventually, when schools opened after the lockdown was eased, the pupils that participated in the online classes had no difficulty resuming and coping with school work. But the pupils that played throughout the lockdown with no learning process had difficulties coping with school work on resumption.
- Better Communication: With social media, pupils can now connect with friends and classmates to solve difficult assignments. I remember when I was younger in secondary school and we were being given difficult assignments, some of my classmates will have to visit their friends to sort out their own assignments. I being an indoor person (my mum never allows us to visit friends), I will have to wait after school or arrive early the next day to sort out mine. But with the advent of social media, the answers are just a click away. Pupils can also find concrete information online that will help their assignments, projects, and so on. Teachers can also stay in touch with their pupils.
- Increased Parental Involvement in Learning Process: Schools have now adopted some social media platforms to update parents on pupils’ activities and performance in school. Most schools create a WhatsApp group for each class in which parents and teachers are added as participants. Pictures of events, news, information and others are uploaded at regular intervals on the WhatsApp pages.
- Opportunity for Vocational Learning at Reduced Cost: With a social media platform like YouTube, you can learn virtually any skill ranging from ‘how to cook jollof rice’ , ‘baking of cake’, ‘setting up a website’, etc. The list is endless. All you need is some dedication, commitment and, of course, a lot of data. Kids during their summer vacation can learn various vocational skills without having to step out of the house. All that is needed is a good smartphone and plenty of data. More so, learning these skills online really saves costs. Children can learn foreign languages like French , German using the online space.
- Relationship: With social media platforms, children can build good relationships with others. Even the very shy ones can easily make friends on Facebook. The beauty of online friendships is this: you don’t need to meet the person and you can have as many friends as you want.
Negative Effects of Social Media on Children.
- High Risk of Addiction: Addiction to social media implies that longer hours are being spent there leaving little or no time for other activities such as school work, sports, study and other productive routines. There is a reality of being addicted to social media. When a child gets addicted to something, He/She loses interest in other activities. Such addictions can actually lead to physical and mental health breakdown.
- Risky behaviors. Children love to practice what they watch. There is the true story of a 5-year old boy who got so obsessed with Superman that one day he decided to act it out. He was on the upper bunk of his bed in the room when he suddenly jumped out and landed in to the waiting arms of the ceiling fan. Only God spared him that day. He just had some cuts on his head. Some content these children get exposed to online is dangerous and some highly perverting. Those content do not leave the kids the same.
- Cyberbullying: This is a way of harassing someone online by posting false, inappropriate and embarrassing information about that person. This is really a serious issue among kids as some of these kids have attempted suicide after suffering those humiliations.
- Negative Effect on Academic Performance: 99% of the content kids consume on social media is merely from the entertainment niche. This leaves little or no time for the children to do academic studies. This in turn will affect their performance in school.
- Sleep Problems: Because these kids spend long hours on social media, most likely their sleep time will be grossly reduced. Less sleep could affect the development of the brain.
Curbing the Negative Impact of Social Media on Children
With all the listed negatives of social media, are we going to just place a total ban on it for kids knowing fully well its numerous benefits?
Well, I would say No. We can’t eradicate social media for kids. Social Media has come to stay with us and it will do us a lot of good than harm if we know how to handle it properly.
The Keyword here is REGULATION.
Social Media has to be regulated for kids. Now we are not going to leave this work of regulation to the admins of those social media platforms or the content creators.
The work of REGULATION lies majorly with the parents and then the teachers.
Now, you will ask how do one go about these regulations.
Below are simple steps that if you follow diligently will greatly help:
- Talk to the children about the bad effect of social media. Don’t just give rules, make them understand the reasons for those rules.
- Encourage them to spend time on offline activities like sports, music, etc.
- Monitor/supervise their online activities. Ask them questions mostly in a subtle manner, not in an interrogatory way.
- Spend time in listening to them. At times, these children need someone to talk to before taking some decisions (and some of these decisions could really be naughty ones). Be there for them. A little counsel from a loved one can save years of heartache and regrets.
- You may need to join some of their social networking sites (of course secretly) to see what is happening there.
- Have them spend limited time on social media (maybe 1 hour daily).
- Lastly, I would say that parents should desist from pampering their kids unnecessarily. The fact that you can afford to buy a particular item for your child does not mean you must buy it. You need to ask; “does this child need this now”, “would this item unnecessarily expose the child or not”
YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED A SMARTPHONE OR AN IPHONE NOW EVEN IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT. Even if your child has a school assignment /project to do, let them use your own gadget under your supervision.
I believe If the above list is strictly adhered to, then social media will really be a blessing rather than a curse.
We have the responsibility as parents in taking care of the children God has given us. When we pay attention to them in childhood, we would have rest and peace when they become adults.