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In order to monetize social networks, platforms often collect and sell information about users. Businesses use this information to target consumers and craft advertisements. Allowing large corporations to collect information about as well as scrutinize the activity of adolescents and young children might have unintended long term consequences.
Children notoriously lack proper judgement. Because of their limited ability to think ahead, many children will encounter risky situations online. On the internet, malicious actors do exist. While adults are often wary of clickbait and links potentially infected with viruses, children will innocently click on whatever grabs their attention. Furthermore, some individuals specifically target and try to exploit the vulnerability of children and young teens.
The complexity of issues and the number of conflicting news stories or opinions can confuse children. Similarly, many young people will lack the ability to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy news sources. Consequentially, impressionable teenagers and children may embrace antisocial beliefs or attitudes after interacting with fringe news sites or radical social movements through social media.
As a society, we generally try to forgive and forget young people’s mistakes, but erasing the past is almost impossible in the age of the internet. A young person’s online history may stain his or her adult reputation. Activists from all sides are weaponizing the permanent and public nature of social media activity. Although the risk of a child’s actions sparking controversy might be low, the possible consequences are dire enough that parents should educate children about how to sensibly use social media. Additionally, keeping children away from social media until they can responsibly shape their own public image could help minimize regret later in life.
Routinely staring at a phone might rob young people of opportunities to establish meaningful, real-world relationships. Face to face contact helps people to communicate their feelings effectively and form lasting friendships. Text messages and short-form social media posts can lead to misunderstandings and fail to convey nuance. According to some researchers, limitations on the character count of posts seen on sites like Twitter can cause otherwise normal people to post seemingly rude and angry comments. Exposing children to websites where they cannot fully express their feelings or ideas might impair their emotional and intellectual growth.
Social media can be addictive, and even adults find addictions nearly unmanageable. Since the brains of children are still developing, they tend to have poor impulse control and more malleable minds. Therefore, introducing children to addictive forms of media can be especially dangerous. With this in mind, parents should limit their children’s use of social media, especially at a young age.
If current trends continue, the internet and by extension social media will integrate further into people’s lives. People without a social media presence might miss out on career or networking opportunities and lose contact with friends. Social media can be a fun and convenient way of reaching out to new people who share similar interests. There will likely always be an incentive to leverage the power of social media. Ideally, we should teach young people to view social media as a tool; like all tools, social media should work in the interests of the user and society as a whole. Parents should attempt to “vaccinate” children by allowing them to navigate social media in a safe, regulated environment.
Exposure to social media should be controlled, and children under the age of 13 should not have their own account. While any specific age is somewhat arbitrary and will include youths who share the mental capacity of older people, a general rule can still be useful in the same way distinguishing between green and yellow can be functionally useful – i.e. pick up the green object as opposed to the yellow one. Accommodations might be necessary for developmentally advanced or slow children. Considering most social media networks require users to be over the age of 13 anyway, the age probably reflects an approximation for the best tradeoff between the costs and benefits of early social media exposure. Thirteen-year-olds are smart enough to stay clear of sketchy links or ads, and they are old enough that peer pressure to fit in and break rules become major issues. At thirteen-years-old, the threat of social alienation might cause some children to create social media accounts without informing their parents. In the before-mentioned situation, parents cannot protect unsupervised children from the negative effects of social media anyways.
Attentive parents should lead by example and teach their children proper social media habits. General guidelines will help children navigate the social media landscape and stay out of trouble. Parental controls allow parents to supervise and customize children’s experience on social media sites.

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