At what age should we allow our children on social media? Every day we hear nightmarish stories about children getting picked on by cyberbullies or viewing content that they shouldn’t on the darkest parts of the web.
It’s a problem that has blown out of control and maybe a little too much of an issue for our FLOTUS to tackle on her own. Sorry, Melania!
An advocacy group, known as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), recently wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pleading for him to shut down it’s newly minted Facebook Messenger Kids app. Originally designed to cater towards 6 to 12-year-olds, the app was introduced as a highly regulated and “kid-friendly” version of Facebook.
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The CCFC and many of the letter’s co-signers believe that by starting children on social media at an early age, they are being exposed to more of the negative aspects of the internet. “Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts,” the letter reads, “they are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users. They also do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what’s appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and videos.”
It’s a pretty valid argument. But let’s be honest, kids are going to explore the internet behind their parent's backs regardless of what restrictions are put in place. Where there is a will there's a way. So how can parents teach their young children how to be upstanding digital citizens so they don’t become cyberbullies or, well, worse?
According to Zach Marks, the Founder of the kid-friendly social media platform Grom Social, providing guidance through the early stages of a child’s awareness of social media will make a world of difference. Kind of like the Sesame Street version of Facebook, Grom Social is a highly monitored platform that Marks created when he was twelve years old (he’s seventeen now) that both provides a place for children to connect with their friends as well as learn how to correctly exist online. The platform has classes for kids and even cartoon characters that help teach children about issues like cyberbullying and the content that they post.
Furthermore, the network will only allow children to join with the permission of one of their parents. After the site verifies the parents and children (parents have to enter their billing information), parents will be able to monitor their children’s chats as well as be assured that the platform is closely monitored around the clock with all bad words filtered out for their children’s safety.
“What I wanted to do at Grom Social” explains Marks, “is that when a kid does signs up for a social media website when they’re thirteen and under, that they can have fun and talk to their friends in a safe place and their parents can feel comfortable. They are learning how to use social media so by the time they are thirteen or fourteen and go on to another social media site, they know how to use it properly.”
I’m sure we all know some web trolls and cyberbullies who could a refresher course on how to be a decent person online.