Fun, but best for mature, self disciplined kids
I have a 17, 11 & 9 year old, and the changes in social media over the past 5 years have been staggering. While safety is an obvious concern, the more practical concern for me is what all the screen time is doing to young brain and social skill development. When my oldest was a preschooler, it was generally accepted by parents that too much TV was bad for young minds. With the excitement over new technology, (myself included) it is easy to let them spend hours exploring fun new apps on a variety of screens.
My teen ager has had this app for almost a year, and we have discussed the importance of choosing carefully what she posts - no sexually provacative shots, nothing you wouldn't want your grandmother to see. Kids often forget that anyone who has access to their account can "screen shot" any picture they post. This means that once you post a picture, you lose control of where it might end up. Kids are often not very choosy about who they follow and who they allow to follow them, in an attempt to look more "popular" they will often let friends of friends follow them, or follow popular celebrities or older teens. The pictures celebrities and older teens post can be provocative, and the comments crude. There is also the down side of seeing what your peers are doing, 24 / 7. It is easy to get the idea that "everyone" is having fun, and I'm not. In reality, this isn't the case, but teens can become obsessed with what everyone else is doing, and stop being engaged with their own life. Yes, teens have always been preoccupied with the social life of others, but now they never get away from the constant "high light" reel of everyone else's life. It makes it harder to focus on being themselves.
My 9 & 11 year old do not have the app, because I have seen the down side of social media for kids who use it at too young an age. First, my 9 year old daughter has friends who follow much older girls and imitate the behavior of teenagers. Nothing is creepier to me than a 9 year old girl trying to be sexually provocative on social media. I would prefer my younger daughter not be aware of what teens do at parties for another 5 years or so. Childhood is short enought the way it is.
With my 11 year old son, I notice that when his friends come over now, they are more interested in folliowng social media and texting than in playing basketball, or interacting with the people who are in the room with them. I see their normally good social skills dissolving in front of my eyes. I have not even touched on the drama that can occur when kids use social media to exclude or be cruel to others. It definitely makes it much easier to be mean, when you don't have to look at the person you are mistreating. I think parents have a responsibility to monitor what their children are posting, to make sure that their kids don't get caught up in the drama of the moment and post hurtful things. It is simply part of teaching your child to be a responsible human being. Unfortunately, monitoring takes time, and if you don't have it (like I don't for my 2 youngest) you probably shouldn't let your kids have the app.
That being said, this is a really fun app for the socially & emotionally mature. Until there is more research on the effects of social media I will proceed with caution and limit the screen time my kids have, while monitoring (following) what they post. Yes, kids can create a separate account to keep parents in the dark, but if you are an engaged, aware parent, you will probably catch on to this trick.
This title contains:
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Privacy & Safety