What Kids Really Think About Social Media

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Since the dawn of mankind, humans have mused over the idea of immortality. Through technology and social media we have to some extent achieved this quest through our ability to capture every moment of our existence and immortalize it in a digital world. The digital landscape and social media has become part of our everyday lives. One stats site shows that as of the third quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users, Twitter had 307 million, and Instagram 400 million. While there are many studies, articles and expert opinions about social media and it’s impact on our daily lives, sometimes it is the perspectives of the most uninhibited, straight-talking members of the human race that gives us the most refreshing insights. So what do kids really think about social media? We round up quotes from children from toddler to teens from various interviews across the web:

“Being social without being social”

This is probably the most profound answer one tween gave when he was asked what he thought social media was. While it does provide us a way to connect and share with people we don’t necessarily have time to engage with face-to-face on a daily basis, the reality is that these connections are very superficial. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the simple definition of social is:

“relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other”

On social media we don’t talk to each other, we talk at each other, and instead of doing enjoyable things with each other, we post about the enjoyable things we are doing in the presence of others. Rather than enjoying the moment, we are constantly fretting about capturing the moment to share on social media. As one kid put it, “Adults usually post pictures and stuff and see what others are doing”.

“It’s more of a distraction”

using a smartphone while walking

We fool ourselves into thinking that we are multi-tasking, when in truth social media distracts us from what is happening in real time. According toone report, the average American spends an average of 3+ hours per day on social networks. That is a significant amount of time when you factor in hours spent at work or school, hours for sleep, and for self-care activities. From a kids perspective, social media may be distracting parents from having meaningful conversations with their kids, or giving their kids undivided attention when being shown the latest art creation.

“It’s some filtered/altered/handpicked highlight”

This is how one 13-year-old described his understanding of social media. We use these networks to portray snippets of our daily lives and we think we are keeping up to date with what is happening in others’ lives. But these snapshots can never convey the true essence of someone’s life. In the end, what we choose to share is a post-production edited version of our lives. Many parents, myself included, post pictures of our kids on social media, but what do the kids think of this. When asked, “What do you think when your parents share pictures of you on Facebook?”, the young boy replied, “That’s creepy”.

“It’s kinda the way to find stuff out”

In the digital age, news agency are no longer the source of breaking news. Often, we hear about major events in our community or even the world via social media before the age old news broadcasters. But we also learn about the more mundane stuff, like the fact that your friend from kindergarten who you haven’t seen in 20 years had bran for breakfast this morning. As one little boy asked in an interview with comedian Mark Malkoff, “Why does, my mum take pictures of her breakfast and put them on Facebook?”, while another little boy notes, “People write about all their personal business”.

“Do you really have 3000 friends?”

One study suggests that social media is affecting our concepts of friendship and intimacy, because of the sense of community we experience in the virtual world even though it is void of personal contact and interaction. When the comedian Mark shows his Facebook profile to one of the kids he asks, “Do you really have 3000 friends?”, and when Mark says yes the boy shouts out, “Liar!”. While humorous it really reflects reality. The average Facebook user has about 300 ‘friends’, but are these really friends? Do we really need to be sharing so much of our lives with so many people at once? As one teenager aptly put it, it’s more “like an awkward family dinner we can’t really leave”.  In support of the study, one 11-year-old boy said about social media, “When I grow up I want to be friends with everyone on Facebook”.

Responsible use

I am not trying to demonize social media, because, well frankly, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. This is more of a refection on the realities of social media use and that perhaps we need to be more cognizant of our social media-life balance. I propose that we just try to be more mindful of the time we spend on social media and how we are experiencing our daily lives, and just have fun with it. And we don’t recommend you follow the advice of one toddler who, when Mark asked him what he thought Mark should post on Facebook exclaimed, “Your butt!”. Let the motto: EXPERIENCE NOW, SHARE LATER be your guide. If you are finding it particularly hard to be ‘unplugged’ you can read this great post by fellow Lifehack writer on managing social media addiction.

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