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Digital lives of your kids—Do you know enough?

When today kids take an apple to school, it is more likely to be a Smartphone than a fruit. When they sit down to do school projects, it is on a laptop rather than worksheets. When they interact with their friends, it is most likely to be over social networking channels rather than a face-to-face chat. Welcome to the digital lives of your kids where you are a stranger….

Communication in your kid’s world has never been more challenging and open as today. Today’s social media channels open once private interactions for the entire school to see, add pics and videos to words and allowing the whole community to comment on it and even maintain a permanent record of all those interactions.

As a parent, we can be excited about this new technology wave or nervous. However, we definitely cannot be left out of it.

With the help of data gathered from different survey research, we take a close look of how young people use social networking sites and the different styles of their online communications.

Daily users of social media

Today’s kids are enthusiastic, daily users of social media. 90% of kids between the age group of 13 to 17 have used some form of social media or the other. Check out this graph below and see the usage of different types of social media platforms.

Using social platforms for communication

Almost all kids use social media to communicate with their peers. It is like the most important activity to keep their social status alive. Kids are active on different kinds of online platforms, from email, chat, sms, video chat, IM and social networking sites. Here is a graph, showing the real numbers.

Kids from 13- to 17-year-olds, percent who have ever:

[caption id="attachment_2097" align="aligncenter" width="618"]social media communication Different social media platforms for communication used by kids[/caption]

So, we know that almost all kids have an online social presence. Now, check the stats to see how frequent they are on these social networking platforms.

Daily Use of Social and Digital Communications Media

Among all 13- to 17-year-olds, percent who engage in each activity at least once a day. As shown in the graph, texting is their favorite mode of communication and the second in number is social networking sites. So, 90% of kids are visiting either of these online portals, at least once a day. How many times, you visit these portals?

[caption id="attachment_2098" align="aligncenter" width="619"]daily usage of social media Kids visiting social media sites every day[/caption]

And what are their favorite social networking sites? Here is the answer to that.

Social Networking Sites

Among all 13- to 17-year-olds, percent who say their main social networking site is:

social networking sites

It is quite clear that Facebook is a big hit with kids. No doubt, there are so many status updates throughout the day. There is lot happening on the Facebook, whether it is privacy or the latest gossip that circles around your kid’s life and you need to know that.

Is social media all bad?

Not exactly. The new online life that is so much a part of today’s generation is not completely negative. Let’s take a closer look at what really is out there.

Benefits of social media

Yes, kids spend a lot of time on social media. But, not all that is bad. They use social networking to stay connected to friends, make new friends, share photos (this can sometimes get dangerous), play games, blog, promote causes that they believe in and even do homework.

The effect of social networking on the social and emotional well-being of kids

Among the 13- to 17-year-olds with a social networking profile, percentage of kids who say social networking makes them feel more or less:

[caption id="attachment_2100" align="aligncenter" width="623"]effect of social media Effect of social media sites on the personal lives of kids[/caption]

Access to health information

Kids are not using social platforms only for leisurely activities. They use social media to get information on different health topics, right from sexually transmitted diseases to depression. They go to groups to access networks that act as a support group for different ailments.

As parents, we can initiate conversations with our kids about different health issues and help them filter that overload of information that is in front of them.

The other side of social media

Even though there seems to be many benefits of social networking sites, there is a down side to it as well. Here are some of the common things that constantly worry parents, when the kids are online.

  • Cyber-bullying and online harassment
  • Sexting
  • Lower school grades
  • “Facebook depression”

The Verdict

According to Larry Rosen, who specializes in psychology of technology:

“From my research and that of others I see the overall effect [of social media on teens] as both good and bad,” he states. “Some of our research shows, for example, that more Facebook activity is related to more signs of certain psychiatric disorders such as narcissism, while the same research shows that having more friends on Facebook predicts lower depression.

“Other studies out of our lab show that using Facebook helps teens practise and learn how to be empathic in the real world. And still other work shows that shy teens are assisted in learning communication skills by practising online. The bottom line is that we are just now starting to see both the good and the bad.”

As per the research done by Larry Rosen, the positive side of social media is slowly starting to outweigh the negative aspects. However, parents and teachers need to draw the line for their kids. Here is a graph stating the effects of social media on different relationships.

[caption id="attachment_2101" align="aligncenter" width="627"]social media and relationships Is social media good or bad for our relationships?[/caption]

Based on his research, Rosen believes that the positive benefits of social media use are starting to outweigh the negative ones, but parents and teachers need to make a considered effort to ensure that the positives win out.

Who is in control?

As a parent, if you are not comfortable with the different aspects of social media, then the fear of the negative aspects of social media look much larger. Mostly such parents completely prohibit the use of social media for their kids. But kids find a way around and that also without your knowing about it, making things worse.

As per research, kids feel more comfortable online, when they know they can turn to their parents for help, if things go wrong. So, keeping the channels of communication open is very important.

Social media safety tips

It is possible to help your kids explore the online social networking sites safely. The very first step that you need to take is, checking out these sites yourself. If they see you with appropriate social media usage, they will pick it up naturally. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

  • Be regular on social media sites that your kids visit.
  • Set up your Facebook account, so that you can ‘friend’ your teen and keep a silent watch over his online activities.
  • If your kid refuses you to be a part of his Facebook circle, then insist on an audit. You should be able to access your kid’s Facebook page any time you want.
  • Take the help of your web browser’s History button to keep a track of the websites that your kid visits.
  • Put parental controls and privacy settings in place, so that there is filtered access available to your kids.
  • Set the rule that your kid will only friend people whom he actually knows in person and not strangers.
  • Check what goes in the profile and help them select a safe screen name.
  • Explain to them why things like phone numbers, addresses, financial information should stay private and not openly shared online.

Technology is here to stay, so let’s figure out a way to get the best out of it, rather than being scared of it.

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