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Five Very Good Reasons Why Kids Need Their Own Social Network (5 part series)

| October 7, 2009 | Comments (3)
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Introduction – The Truth Revealed

070220_KidsSocialNetwork_wid.hlarge In a nutshell, I founded Yoursphere Media Inc., a company that focuses on the family, because of the five reasons I’m sharing with you in this series. Warning: the content of this series is disturbing, but it continues to fuel our company’s commitment to creating a kids social network and an educational resource for parents.  Please read and share. We all need to know that it’s not “just about Facebook”. It’s about the content, culture and people that exist in many of the sites our children are members of, or are exposed to.

As parents that are online community participants, we’ve all probably realized that our kids are going to be involved in social networking/social media. We can like it, or not. Regardless, our kids ARE living in a 24/7 digital world, and social media is today’s version of “hanging out”.

While we have accepted this participation, do we know how it’s going to benefit our children?  (Other than relief for us from the nagging: “all my friends are on Facebook and Myspace…I want to be, too”.  Besides the “no more nagging and crowd effect”, what are the benefit to our children when they are participating members?

As I’ve said before: participation online is like the traditional field trip: positive, educational, beneficial, aids to what our kids learn in the classroom and at home. (I’ll save the “however” part of the experience for later…)

Here’s what the experts who worked on  the Digital Youth Project conducted primarily at USC and UCB found after researching tweens and teens on social networking:

  1. The constant communication that social networking provides is encouraging useful skills.
  2. This communication is creating new opportunities for young people to grapple with social norms, exploring interests, developing technical skills and allows them to work on norms of self expression.
  3. According to co-author Lisa Tripp, “certain technical skills in the coming years are not going to be just about consuming media…it’s going to be about producing media. It’s not just about writing a blog, but also how to leave comments that say something. Learning to communicate like this is contribution to the general circulation of culture”. (This means anything from a video clip to a profile page is going to reflect the self-expressions skills one has.)
  4. Social networking contributes greatly to teens’ extended friendships and interests. “This kind of communication has let teens expand their social circle by common interests”.
  5. “They can publicize and distribute their work to online audiences and become sort of a microexpert in that area”.

So, I have to tell you, they’re right.  I have experienced this myself at home. My younger kids have only been worried about how to spell twice: Once when they are preparing for a test, second, when they’re communicating with friends on Yoursphere and posting. “Mom, how do you spell Cincinnati? I’m writing to Lex. I don’t want to look stupid.”  My daughter loves it when she meets someone that loves the same lyrics of a song, or can get help styling her sphere from another member.

Or I’ve watched the avid group of young writers in Yoursphere that discovered “Bman”, who writes poetry and all the girls have shared their own poems with him. It’s really cool to see the interest and exchanges happening real time.

The study does warn: parents  still have an important role to play when it comes to tweens, teens and social networking.  They need to accept that technology is a necessary and important part of culture for young people, and be aware of who the teens are communicating.

Here is where the “however” comes in: It’s been my personal experience over the last three years that I’ve spent inside social media sites, that experts have not addressed nor identified the core problem. That is: what happens when children participate in online communities created by adults and for adults. As this series will reveal, communication is the first line of protection, however, nobody shared with us parents that along the way (on this social media “field trip”), our children would be:

  1. Sexualized.
  2. Participating in a culture that if the computer wasn’t involved, would be illegal, immoral, unethical or unacceptable.
  3. Exposed to negative things they’d likely never have seen prior, if at all.
  4. Potentially aggressively sexually solicited.
  5. Exposed to pornography, or creating their own.
  6. In danger of losing their true selves.
  7. In danger or losing their childhood.
  8. In danger of losing their innocence.

These are the issues that we need to be educated about. I encourage you as you continue to digest this information to breathe deeply, take a drink of water, but don’t run away and unplug your computer. Social media does benefit our children’s lives; it’s just our time now to make a change to balance the scales so that the positives way, way, way, way outweigh the negatives. The negatives are too great,  too many , too consequential, too unacceptable as you’ll see in this series.

I hope the facts that I reveal here help you understand why I’ve committed myself, (including my husband and family, Lee and Kathryn Rees, our investors, and the rest of the dedicated Yoursphere Media Inc. team) to changing the environment our kids socially network on through Yoursphere.com.  As well, why I’ve decided to become an advocate for parent education and involvement regarding social media participation and the Internet.

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Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Category: Privacy, Safety

Comments (3)

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  1. Hannah Wentz says:

    idk if im suicidal…but i have no friends, both my parent died in a car accident and i have gotten beaten like 20 times, half by guys. im not sure though. what do i have to loose. maybe if im dead people will appreciate me. Then again…god gave me this life for a reason. im taking suggestions.

    • Mary Kay says:

      I am so sorry for the trouble you’ve had in your life. No one deserves what you’ve been through. There are many people and resources available to help and support you. Take the first step and try reaching out to any of these services: http://www.teenhealthandwellness.com/static/hotlines (this site has hotline numbers and links to other sites for just about everything), http://whatdoyouchoose.org/ (you can read other people’s stories or refer your teacher to the site to learn what they can do to prevent bullying), http://www.stopbullying.gov/. Please talk to someone about what you’re going through, Hannah. These resources exist because people care.

  2. I Care Because I Care. says:

    OMG! This isn’t why kids want social media! You adults are getting it ALL WRONG. The reason why us kids like social media is because…it’s social! It’s fun, and if you are safe with it, there is nothing to worry about. I’m not saying I’m too lazy to call my friends…it is just a fun way to express yourself and communicate distantly. If you snap a cool pic with you and your friends, POST IT! YOLO PEOPLE! My life is a carefree one. I have my friends, family.I just use social media when I’m away from them. Now, if your child is depressed, Social media/games/TV etc. is sometimes used to escape reality. They are in their own little bubble. This is sad, I know. But if they are suicidal or something, it may best to let them have a supervised page/account/ etc. Moms, don’t read into the positive things about social media. Otherwise, you will ruin it. I’m sorry, but it is true. When your kid says “Mom, everybody has (social media name)! Why can’t you be like other parents and cut me some slack?! This is psychologically damaging me! UGH!” just remember when you were a kid.

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