Last night, my grade school aged son popped me this question. Initially, I thought that he was being silly. My first reaction was a grin and a crisp, “Hahaha”. Having realized that he was still waiting for a serious response, I said, “Why?”
“All Of My Friends Are On YouTube!”
According to the 2014 study, “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22475444>, young people say they want to be on social networking sites (SNS) “to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others”.
The researchers were able to find evidence that adolescents participating in SNS benefit from advancing their social skills. Nevertheless, the study also found several negative impacts concerning social media and children, that includes comparing themselves with others in their network.
I Said, “No”
My son presented me with 100 other reasons why he needs to be on YouTube but, in the end, I said, “No” and it was non-negotiable. Of course, he asked me back, “Why not?”
I gave him these Top 5 reasons why I wouldn’t let him have his own YouTube account:
1. There are too many bad people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t lost my faith in humanity. I teach my kids to trust people but, before I tell them that, I tell them to doubt others first. Unfortunately, there are too many bad people lurking online waiting for their next prey. Frankly, Internet privacy and security is not something most of us, not even our institutions including our children’s schools, are teaching our kids.
2. There is an appropriate age to be on SNS. Based on the US Children’s Online Privacy Act, that age is 13 but, in most territories, that’s really not defined. The bottomline is that, there is a certain level of maturity necessary to understand the benefits and risks inherent with having accounts on SNS.
3. The inherent risks are real security risks for children and your entire family. I told my son, “You’re simply too young to know what kinds of information you should be sharing online and not”. Can you imagine a public post that reads, “Gone for the Holidays. Off to Hawaii!” That’s the same thing as inviting burglars to rob you while you’re sipping your piñacolada, watching the sun set on the other side of the world. I see many adults continue to post such information so, how can we expect kids to do any better?
4. Younger children must learn to connect with others in more traditional ways first. It’s harder to feel empathy when you’re online. Online communication makes your child miss out on most of the more important non-verbal cues which, sometimes, say more than what is actually being said or typed back. Succeeding in life is always linked to how well somebody is able to connect with others and genuinely care. My son needs to learn those values first so that, someday, he may be able to contribute to the good, valuable content available online.
5. Any information made available online becomes public property. I don’t count on any SNS privacy and security policy because the truth of the matter is that we are all leaving footprints of ourselves whenever we are online. Of course, the audience settings on Facebook or, the non-public posts on YouTube videos are helpful yet, there is always the possibility of getting that “private” information out there, most especially when these are shared with others, even with just a handful of people very close to you.
Whatever my son posts on the Internet becomes part of his online footprint and can have an impact on his future. Before he creates his YouTube account or any other SNS account, therefore, I need him to appreciate the fact that owning and managing a social media account is a big responsibility he has to be able to keep for his sake and for the sake of others, including both the people he knows and not.
One thing is for sure, now is not YET the time for him to have any sort of social media identity. Well, but, that’s just me. Have your children asked you about creating a social media account? What’s your take on this?