Kids younger and younger are adopting the digital communications tools available. The Millenials (those between the ages of 10 and 20) represent the largest percentage of these users. The fastest-growing segment of kids online is those 2–11 years of age.
I initially wanted to delay my children’s foray into the world of connectivity through social media. Perhaps you’re like me, but after five children ranging in age from 7 to 20, I can tell you this: Your kids should be connected online, and the sooner the better. Here’s why:
1. It’s Inevitable.
It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of “when.” As you read, children as young as two are online. This is why you need to be proactively involved in making sure your child is connected. If you aren’t, they’ll do it on their own, and you’ll miss the opportunity to steer them in the right direction to kids-only social networks instead of the adult-intended ones.
2. It’s Educational.
When your child is participating in a kid’s social network, they’re supplementing the education they’ve received in the classroom and at home. Whether it’s learning about “ways they can be green” or “5 tips for writing your own song,” the experience is beneficial to them.
3. It’s Lots of Fun.
Let’s face it, a positive comment from a friend, creating an avatar, playing hundreds of games, or creating a sphere to show off their interests are all sure ways to make your child smile as they have fun using social media.
4. It’s A Creative Outlet.
Unlike any other media, social media gives our kids the ability to develop and pursue technical, creative, design, artistic, and writing skills. It’s an outlet where their imagination is their only limitation, and that’s a wonderful thing!
5. It Expands Your Child’s Social Circle.
While real-life friendships are absolutely the most important, social media connections allow your child to meet other kids that share the same interests, talents and aspirations.
6. It’s A Great Communication Vehicle.
Our kids live digital lives. It’s proven to be a wonderful and necessary tool to stay connected.
7. It’s A Participatory Media.
No more concerns of “turning into a vegetable” if you watch too much TV. With online social connectivity, our kids don’t just consume, they get to produce, become and participate in the media.
8. It’s Inspiring!
To see kids support and help one another, to share their interests and to create common ground with kids from all over the world is nothing short of being an inspiration to us all.
9. It’s Healthy.
When your child is in an environment made especially for them, where their individuality is supported, where their privacy and safety matter, where their interests are nurtured, and a community of positive interaction is the status quo, well, it’s simply a healthy experience for them.
10. To Prepare Them To Avoid The Pitfalls.
While there’s much to be gained, there are the pitfalls. Mainstream social networks like Facebook and MySpace were created by, and meant for adults. Too much personal data is collected on these networks; there is no “real privacy”; consumer data is sold; adult content is the norm; a free-for-all culture allows members to behave any which way.
Your kids need the opportunity to learn through networks intended just for them what’s okay to post, or not; how to be a good digital citizen, and why privacy matters so that when they grow up and move on to these networks, they are prepared.
Mary Kay Hoal is a nationally recognized expert on children’s online safety. She is the founder and president of Yoursphere Media Inc., which focuses on the family and publishes the kids’ social network Yoursphere.com – sign your kids up today! Mary Kay also offers parents Internet-safety information and tips at YoursphereForParents.com. She has been profiled on CNN, BBC, E!, Fox & Friends, Lifetime TV and many others. Mary Kay appears on ABC’s 20/20 as their family Internet-safety expert. For more information visit www.marykayhoal.com.