Social media is not for children. There, I said it. Many parents will disagree with me, and some brands will cite argue the rights of these minors. After teaching social media, LinkedIn and digital marketing to Fortune 100 companies, I have learned the pros and cons of online experiences. Coupling my professional experience with raising three daughters in this “always connected” environment, and I hope I have earned a seat at this technological table. I say again: social media is not for children.
My clients are frustrated that their children know more about technology than they do. Chief executives and directors alike are still setting up their LinkedIn accounts while their sons and daughters are posting Snaps and sharing their Instagram stories.
Facebook has developed Messenger Kids an app focused directly at children 12 and under. YIKES! Even though there are safety features built in, giving an 8 year old access to Facebook 2 billion users is concerning to me, and it should scare parents. Here are the challenges:
- Time – Tweens (ages 8 – 12 years) spend an average of 6 hours per day consuming media. Much of this time is unsupervised. I encourage my children to use their devices for playing games and relaxing. However, there is a time reading from a physical book or magazine. Retention rates are higher and people remember more when they use paper and pen.
- Training – Parents are the first teachers in the home. How many of us are teaching our children social media? If children are going to use mobile devices and social networks, they need to learn what to say and how to say it. Children must learn time limits and social media etiquette. Ten year old children are not the right people to teach other children content strategy and how to build an audience.
- Security – Facebook did NOT do a great job protecting their system from Russian hackers during the 2016 Presidential election. Equifax didn’t protect consumer informations (e.g. – passwords, social security numbers, addresses, etc.). Our children do not need to be prematurely exposed to hacks and data breaches. Even if Facebook is not selling these data to third party marketing companies, when there is a Facebook hack (remember the Yahoo! 3 billion person breach), their pictures and privacy will be on the dark web in a matter of days.
- Audience – Facebook has almost 2 billion users. Messenger Kids restricts kids to connecting to connecting with the kids of their parents friends. Problem? Many parents don’t know ALL of their friends.
- Addiction – Studies show that social media is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Why are putting this in the hands of pre-teens? I love using social media to connect with businesses and brands, but sometimes I need a digital detox. This time allows me to reconnect IRL (in real life) with my friends and family. Remember when cigarette companies were giving smokes to kids? Yeah, this is similar to that.
This is a brilliant move by Facebook. Children start early on their platform, learn buying habits and continue to grow their market. Every social media channel is tasked with innovating and keeping eyes on screens. I hope parents recognize the need for digital limitations for the good of their children.
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Scientifically Speaking, of course…