By Jacob Aldrich

Everyone in this day and age knows what social media is, and most everyone we know and care about has and uses at least one form of social media. But with all the good that social media can do, there are also some dangers and explicit content that can be seen, and there are some that want users to be above a certain age in order to use it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is how young is too young to allow children and young students to be allowed to use social media?

Social media has been a blessing to those who haven’t been able to connect with their friends and family as much as they would like, and gives many opportunities to connect, share pictures, memories, and catch up for most of us. But for a younger demographic, it allows for an almost constant stream of information, connection with friends, and opportunities to explore many different facets of the internet. Along with these options, it would seem that all the time spent doesn’t always lead to positive experiences. Unwarranted and uncomfortable attention and messages from strangers are something that nearly 6 in 10 girls say they have been subjected to. There are also many instances of graphic and gory content (pornographic content, self harm, expletive filled videos) that over 2 dozen studies found certain social media sites allowed.

Officially, 13 is the age limit for most social media and that is also the age imposed by Congress for the limiting of data collection on users. But a study found that nearly 80% of 12-year-olds have social media already, and that number could increase as time goes on. The American Psychological Association’s chief science officer would say that there is no correct age for allowing social media access, but uncontrolled access should probably be delayed for as long as possible — certainly, until at least 16.

Some steps that parents can take is to have frank discussions with their children about limiting time when they first have access, re-teaching them about safety while online, how misleading social media can be, and how to talk to parents about if they see anything they shouldn’t or feel uncomfortable. Social media doesn’t have to be some evil incomprehensible thing that divides parents and kids, and can be a tool that is mutually enjoyed by both. For both parents and children it’s important to realize It’s not just about seeing and sharing content, it’s about connecting, seeing their friends grow up and go through events, and keeping up to date on everyday life with their favorite people. Keeping a safe eye on children is just another thing to think about before offering them an all access key to the internet.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think is an appropriate age to start using social media?
  2. Have you ever come across content that was explicit social media?
  3. Do you think access to social media has led to an increase or decrease in screen time in your household?
  4. What steps would you take, if there is too much social media usage, to take time away from social media?

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