Social media has become a huge part
of our daily lives, and now, part of the daily lives of young children. Social media
allows people to connect with others from all around the world and post or
share anything they want at any time. As time progresses, more and more
children are beginning to use social media, some as young as 5 years old. In
fact, despite the age limit of most social networks being 13, 82% of 5-7 year
olds and 96% of 8-11 year olds use social media (Chapter Seventeen… 2). Social
media comes with many dangers including fraud, cyber-bullying, the exposure of
personal information, the exposure to inappropriate content, and the permanent
effects of what is posted. Due to the large amount of dangers associated with
social media, children should not be able to have access to social media until
they are at least 13 years old.
of the main reasons that children under the age of 13 should be restricted from
social media is the dangers of online predator fraud. With endless access to
contact with other people around the world and the ability to hide identity,
online predators are becoming extremely common. In fact,
of sexual predators and online sexual offenses has more than doubled in the
last three years, with more than 82% of online sex crimes originating from
social networking sites that predators use to gain insight into their victim’s
habits and likes” (Chapter Seventeen… 4).
Predators use social media to stalk and manipulate
children into thinking they are someone else through social media, which many
times ends up in the kidnapping or sexual abuse of the child. In fact, Jack
Reynolds, former convicted child molester, was interviewed and said that
media is a killer. If I would have had social media back then, I’m
struggling with the number of lives I would have destroyed, and it’s not good. Social
media is opening the door to where the access is there” (Kenney and Jordan 5).
Children under the age of 13 are prime targets of these
predators due to their innocence, immaturity, and likelihood to be subject to
manipulation to get what they want.
reason to support the restriction of social media to children under 13 is the
danger of cyber-bullying. Now that the online world has grown enormously and
continues to grow, the majority of bullying is now done online instead of
face-to-face. Cyberbullying is actually more dangerous than normal bullying due
to the fact that the bully can cowardly hide behind a disguise and what they
say can go viral for everyone to see (Safe Teens 5). Cyberbullying can lead to
anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Statistically, “30 percent of children
who have been cyber-bullied have suicidal thoughts, and 10 percent of children
have attempted to take their own lives due to cyber-bullying” (Cyberbullying
Facts and Statistics 5).
In addition to cyberbullying and online predators, kids
also face the danger of the large amount of exposure of personal information to
strangers. Kids use
social media daily, posting pictures, commenting, and sharing with other
people, while not even realizing the amount of information that is being
exposed about themselves.
“One study showed that 9 out of 10
teens post photos of themselves online or use their real names on their
profiles; 8 out of 10 reveal their birthdates and interests; and 7 out of 10
post their school name and the town where they live” (Teaching Kids to Be Smart
About Social Media 1).
In fact, some newer apps even reveal peoples’ location,
for anyone to see exactly where people are (Teaching Kids… 2). Child
psychologist Dr. Richard Woolfson highlights on this topic and claims that
“social media has removed the barriers between a young person’s public and
private self, leaving them vulnerable and exposed to danger by sharing online”
(Williams 11). The exposure of personal information is dangerous because it
feeds sexual predators. The more information that predators know about someone,
the more of an advantage they have. The younger the child is, the less aware
and less mature they are, so they are less likely to realize the risks of
giving out personal information to strangers.
with the exposure of personal information, young children using social media
are exposed to inappropriate, mature content. Dr. Woolfson comments that
“children are gaining access to social media sites at a younger age, which
could expose them to content, people or situations that are out of their depth
and which they’re not emotionally prepared for” (Williams 12). A specific,
major example of this is the exposure to sexual content. Because teens spend so
much time on social media, they “may accidentally or intentionally be exposed
to millions of pages of material that is uncensored, sexually explicit, and
harmful (Ross 1). There are minimal things that parents can do to protect a
child from these contents if the child has access to social media. “Children as
young as 8 or 9 are coming across sexually explicit material on social media”
(Ross 3). Also, even though these young
children may not understand what they are seeing, what they see leaves a
lasting impression on the child. Exposure to this content can only produce undesirable
effects, and the only solution to protection from this inappropriate content is
the complete absence of social media in children under the age of 13.
final major danger that comes with the child use of social media is their lack
of maturity to understand that whatever they say and post online is permanent.
When it comes to the Internet, nothing deleted is ever truly gone.
“photos, videos, and comments made
online can’t be taken back once they’re posted. Even after a teen thinks
something has been deleted, it can be impossible to completely erase from the
Internet” (Teaching Kids… 2).
Children under the age of 13 are far too immature to
handle something this powerful. They are not mature enough to understand the
power of what they post and the effects it will have on their future in life.
“Posting an inappropriate photo can damage a kid’s reputation in ways that may
cause problems years later” (Teaching Kids… 2). This could seriously be
detrimental later in the kids’ lives, when potential employers or college
admissions officers do background checks. Something as powerful as permanent
pictures, videos, and comments should never be placed in the hands of children
under the age of 13.
argue that social media has beneficial effects on child development in todays’
age. Anna Rodriguez argues that social media boosts the self-esteem of children
and allows them to feel confident, smart, and welcomed by others (Rodriguez 4).
She also argues that social media allows children to be informed and connected
to the world around them, with a strong support system from a wide array of
people (Rodriguez). This is true; however, the parents must have strict
regulations on the children if this were to be safe in any way. Parents can
monitor their child’s use of social media by following their accounts, making
sure their accounts are set to “private”, and monitoring the amount of time
they spend on social media. However, this is not enough to avoid the potential
problems that come with child use of social media, because children will still
have access to inappropriate content, and they will find ways to talk to
strangers regardless of their parents’ attempts to avoid it. The dangers far
outnumber the benefits of child use of social media, and parents cannot
completely prevent these dangers from affecting young children.
such a large number of children using social media, it is important to analyze
and understand the true dangers that come with this all. It may seem all good
on the outside, but in reality, children will face dangers of fraud,
cyber-bullying, the exposure of personal information, the exposure to
inappropriate content, and the permanent effects of what is posted online.
Children under the age of 13 should never have access to social media unless
they are truly mature and understanding of the consequences. When it comes to
child use of social media, there is far more harm than good.