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The Value Social Networking Provides Our Children

| January 11, 2012 | Comments (4)
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Five Reasons Why You Should Encourage Your Child to Be Online

Yes, you read that right: encourage your kids to be online and join a social network! As a mom of five, I know how busy our children’s lives can be between school, homework, after-school activities and friends. So you might wonder “when” I’d suggest your child would have time to be online.

Well, that time is any time your child has screen time available to them. Whether it’s the TV, the Xbox, computer, or “iDevice”, these are the screen-time opportunities you should seize to introduce your child to something that will inevitably be a part of their lives: social networking. All the more reason to take an involved and proactive approach so that you can help ensure your child has a healthy, positive, age-appropriate and safe experience.

While there are definite concerns, rules and regulations related to children on social networks, (i.e. by law they must be 13 to join the mainstream adult-intended networks like Facebook or MySpace) the benefits to your child can be rich and rewarding! The top benefits include:

  1. Education
  2. Digital Literacy
  3. Social Skills
  4. Shared Interests
  5. Validation and Acceptance

Education:

When your child is participating in a social network meant for them, they’re supplementing the education they receive in the classroom and at home. Whether it’s learning about “ways they can be green” or “fun facts about hermit crabs”, they’re learning. From my own experience, the only time my 10-year old son asked me how to spell a word was when he has a spelling test. Imagine my surprise when he asked me if he was spelling “Cincinnati” right because he was posting in the Sports Sphere and didn’t want to “want kids to think he couldn’t spell.”

Digital Literacy:

With our kids knowing more about technology typically than we do, you might wonder, what’s left for my kids to learn? Well, a lot. Whether it’s something simple like how to embed a video or how to download and create a photo album, there are important lessons to learn like “digital citizenship”, that are key to a positive experience. It’s why we teach our members to “be kind” to others online and “think before you post.” In the coming years, it won’t be just about consuming media; it will be about producing content, so it’s critical they have the skill set to do so.

Social Skills:

Fact is, our kids live digitally connected lives. Yes, there is less face-to-face, real-life interaction. Social networking, like it or not, is today’s version of hanging out. The fastest growing segment of online users are those 2 – 11 years of age. That’s why it’s important that our children learn how to apply their digital citizenship skills, which they’ve learned from us and sites just for kids, to help them safely navigate these online social waters.

Shared Interests:

There isn’t a more rewarding experience than sharing your interest or expertise in social networks. Our children can showcase their talents, publicize and distribute it to their online friends, and become a micro expert.

Validation and Acceptance:

What’s more encouraging to a kid than to find a comment on their sphere post that says: “That is so cool that you can do that. I always wanted to. How did you learn? Do you practice a lot?” I chuckled over how many kids in Yoursphere asked for help and advice from one member who had a knack for creating some pretty neat jewelry out of recyclables. They all decided they wanted to start going through the family recycle bin to see what they could create! Each of our children is unique. They deserve the validation and acceptance they can get on social networks because of who they are, as well as the acceptance and commonality they will find when in the right environment.

Category: Tech Benefits

Comments (4)

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  1. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Tom:
    Not only do I teach and consistently dialogue with my children about these issues (and many others), I use products on all the family digital devices to proactively ensure that they have the most safe and age-appropriate experience as possible. I tell them what the products are, the job they do and why we use them.
    Nothing is ever 100% but an educated child can be an empowered child. Any opportunity a parent can create to help their child understand the dangers
    and follow the rules is a good thing in my book.
    Best,
    Mary Kay

  2. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Sheila:
    I’m absolutely not saying a child at 2 should join Facebook. Besides it being an adult-intended social network, with all the adult-intended and unacceptable content that is allowed (http://bit.ly/ymQk2m), it’s in violation of a federal children’s privacy law called The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act(http://bit.ly/xm9UG4), which is meant to protect the personal information of any child under the age of 13. I personally think teens should wait until their senior year in high school before joining Facebook.
    Kids need the opportunity to learn the importance of digital citizenship, why their online privacy matters, and be given the opportunity to “be kids” in an age-appropriate environment. Liken it to the television industry: A ways back there was only ABC, CBS, NBC…then along came cable and suddenly there was great, age-appropriate, educational and engaging programming for children. That’s exactly what needed to happen for children, and frankly, the same reason why I founded the kids social network, Yoursphere.com.
    Social media is a great tool for children when:
    - used responsibly
    - their privacy is protected
    - the experience is age-appropriate
    - parents are involved in their child’s participation
    - kids learn the importance of being safe online and a good digital citizen
    Regarding social media use, I see the opportunity for parents to help guide their children in an age-appropriate, healthy and positive direction, just like they would when choosing a daycare provider, school, sports activity or movie to watch.
    I hope that clarifies the points I made in this article. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time.
    Best,
    Mary Kay

  3. Sheila says:

    So, you’re saying it’s beneficial for 2 year old’s to join and have their own Facebook page? I am concerned about child pornography and predators, even with all the privacy features that there are available.

  4. Tom Scales says:

    Hi Mary Kay,
    How do you teach your children about the dangers of the Internet to keep them safe from predators and pornography?
    Tom

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