Oliver Campey writes his thoughts below.
A study back in 2014 conducted by Dr Richard Woolfsen and knowthenet.com highlighted that more than half of children had used social media by the age of 10. The report also found that 43% of these children had messaged strangers or engaged with negative comments by the age of 12.
The cynic amongst us may question the validity of the report or condemn certain elements in terms of how easy they are to measure. However, the fact does remain that children are engaging with social media at an increasingly younger age and it needs to be investigated as to whether this is safe.
Firstly, one the foundations of adopting any form of new technology or service is having an education on how best to use it. It’s a fact that when looking into the syllabus for younger age groups children are not educated by this stage on the positive and negative effects of social media. Personally, I think this needs to change. I wouldn’t say there’s an issue with the age that children are interacting with social media because as a generation we are adapting to new technologies at an earlier age than ever before. However, what does need addressing is providing children with an education from a young age so that they have a greater understanding of how to appropriately engage with social media.
Secondly, there needs to be further research into the negative effects of dopamine on the human brain and the formation of an addiction to likes and positive engagement across social platforms. As discussed in the previous post dopamine can be triggered by things such as gambling, alcohol, and smoking all of which are regulated and carry age restrictions of 18 or above. As highlighted by AdWeek, social media channels generally enforce an age restriction of 13+ and so there could be an argument to bring it more in line with the age restrictions for smoking, gambling, and alcohol.
Thirdly, social media is having a hugely negative impact on the younger generations ability to socialise and form meaningful relationships with their friends. Only yesterday was I sat in a cafe and I witnessed a group of friends all sat on their phones and not conversing with one another. To make things worse, when one of the group did spark up some form of a conversation, the others responded with a nod of the head or a mumbled grunt and continued flicking through their phones.
What kind of message does that send out to the person who initiated the conversation? It’s essentially saying, you’re not interesting enough for me to listen. I agree with Nat that we need to ensure that from a young age people are connected and have the ability to consume information whenever they need it. It’s common knowledge that teenagers are spending more time on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo to learn new skills and acquire new information.
I just think their needs to be a greater level of education on the safe and effective use of social media across the school system and for parents. A report by the NSPCC found that “More than half of parents are unaware of the age limit on Social Media”, this means they aren’t making well-informed decisions when allowing their children to roam free across social channels. If more work is done to provide children with a better education, it will eradicate so-called ‘social bad habits’ and allow us to become better communicators both professionally and personally.
Check out Nat’s vlog below for a greater level of insight into this topic!