Digital Dangers: At What Age Should Kids Get Social Media?
The internet is as dangerous for the adolescent mind as the streets of a crime-ridden city are for the innocent. This isn’t new information, but the dangers of social media have grown since the MySpace era. In response to the latest social media platforms and the trends that accompany them, parents should not allow their kids to get social media until after the age of 13, at the very least.
One of the more recent contributions to the study of the effect of social media on youth is that Tik Tok is suspected to cause certain kids to develop tics, according to research from the National Library of Medicine. Regardless of this, there have always been dangers to using social media. Whether it’s connecting with potentially dangerous strangers, the risk of pornographic content or other threats to young consumers, there is a reason that most social media apps require a minimum age of 13 for their users.
The consumption of Tide Pods led the list of blatantly foolish trends promoted on social media in 2018. Kids were challenged to eat shrink-wrapped laundry detergent, and many followed through making videos of the reaction they had to ingesting the soap. Much of its coverage (and coverage of other trends like the cinnamon challenge) can be summarized by the Washington Post’s heading “We don’t need to tell you why that’s a bad idea.”
In the face of such trends and the common dangers of social media, it is appropriate for parents to withhold access until their kids are older. Not only would parents follow the social media guidelines honestly, but they would also protect their kids from easy access to content that is not always age appropriate.
Christina Caron of the New York Times wrote that parents shouldn’t go “from 0 to 100” but rather introduce their children to technological social interaction without social media platforms. She gives the example of letting their children text a friend. She suggests that parents ease their children into social media usage and adjust (delete or add apps, restrictions, etc.) as needed to fit the distinct personality of the child.
In 2018, CNN Health reported that the average age of children who sign up for social media is 12.6 years old. That age is likely getting lower as time goes on as Cleveland Health recently reported that half of children 10-12 years old use social media.
Due to the various dangers and effects of social media, it is necessary that parents restrict their children from using social media until at least 13 years old. At that age, they may introduce those apps to their children so the process becomes more gradual and easier to monitor.
The digital media realm has long eclipsed the world without technology. Parents must know that times have changed and must adapt. When raising kids in our screen-run world, parents should strive to find a middle ground in their children’s early teenage years.
Bower is an opinion writer. Follow him on Twitter