Controlling Social Media Use in Children Under 13 Years Old

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Because they influence human behavior and perceptions, technological improvements have influenced how humans interact with one another. Social media has altered the socialization process by creating new platforms for people to communicate ideas, meet new people, and conduct transactions. People in modern society have shifted from the physical world to virtual settings to do business. Social media has had the greatest impact on the younger generation. According to a survey of American youths aged 13 to 17, 76% and 75%, respectively, use Instagram and Snapchat (NORC at the University of Chicago). According to the report, these figures are the result of greater access to computing devices, particularly smartphones.  The majority of the teenagers spent most of their time online. Therefore, internet applications have a potential influence on teenagers. Social media influence social, psychological, emotional and physical factors of human beings. Therefore, there is the need for controlling social media use, especially for children under the age of 13 years, to minimize adverse effects of online platforms.

Preteens are in a critical stage of mental and social developments. Early experiences influence how the brain functions, respond to stress, and their social skill, especially creating working relationships. It is during the first thirteen years that the brain undergoes significant changes, enabling social and emotional development. During this period, children develop their ability to beware of their emotions and those of others.

All aspects of development at the age of 0-13 years are interconnected. For instance, the emotions of children influence their ability to learn new information and interact with others appropriately. Since social media use influences the social development of a kid, other aspects such as emotional, cognitive, and physical development are also affected. Therefore, if the impact of social media is negative, the whole child is affected adversely. A legislation controlling the use of social media among the young generation can help to prevent or minimize the negative effects.

Legislations can help reduce the risk of children under the age of 13 years falling victims of social media use. The use of social media influences how individuals express themselves in the real world. Online platforms offer adolescents new ways of accessing communication and entertainment. There are few restrictions on the things people can access online. Therefore, children on social media can be exposed to contents that are not fit for their age that may influence how they perceive and have negatively. For this reason, it is imperative for society to limit the use of social media or the contents accessible to children under the age of 13 years.

The environment in which people live determines factors that shape their mental, psychological, and social well-being. Children’s interactions mainly focus on their family members, teachers, and friends at school and in their neighborhood. However, the use of social media introduces them to new factors that to which they have not physical attachments. When exposed to wrong information, children may lose the sense of social interactions with their family members and other individuals who are significant in the real world. Restricting the use of social media may help parents to have more control over the social well-being of their children.

There are limited scientific investigations on the impact of social media or developments of kids. However, the few studies on the topic indicate that social platforms on the internet have some negative impacts on the development of the young generation. The study by Meres & Kretz (2015) indicates that children who were below 18-years became more aggressive in behaviors, thoughts and a reduction in the helping behavior when they were exposed to social media. In another research in the U.S., at least four-hundred children aged 6 and 9 were surveyed to determine their exposure and the interpretation of the violence they watched on TV (Meres & Kretz). After 15-years, the researchers assessed the level how aggressive they had grown through interviews and the examination of the records on crimes. The findings showed that the children who had a perception that the TV violence was realistic at an early age showed stronger indications of aggression (Meres & Kretz).

O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson argue that children are more prone to risks of social media than adults (801). The limited understanding of the young generation needs a controlled environment to ensure that whatever they share and people they interact with are appropriate. Cyber-bullying and online harassment are adverse experiences that children may have when using social media. Their limited knowledge and understanding predispose them to perpetrators of online harassments and bullying. O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson found that online harassments and bullying results in depression, anxiety, severe isolation and suicide among other psychosocial outcomes (802). Such experiences influence all aspects of their development adversely.

Social media is used by teenagers to share sexually explicit messages, photographs, and videos. These contents are usually distributed through cell phones and the internet. Since there is an increasing rate of accessing smartphones, the internet, and social media by the young generation, they can easily find access to sexually explicit content. Furthermore, there are no limited interactions with people on online platforms. Pornographic contents over the internet provide a wrong orientation to the sexuality of children. Their access and use are usually not controlled. They do not have limited or precautions, thereby, distorting the social well-being of children that can extend to their adulthood.

The interaction of children with others plays an important role in their development. Interactions with other people enable kids to develop socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Associations with their peers, parents, siblings, teachers, and other close relatives give them an idea of what is expected of them in the society. Children also learn how to co-exist with others. However, the use of Facebook has resulted in a phenomenon that calls O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson Facebook depression (802). Addictions are behavioral effects of Facebook use. Preteens are likely to spend most of the time on social media when they become addicted. As a result, they begin to disconnect themselves from the real world, a factor that is significant to their development. Another consequence of the frequent use of Facebook and other social media platforms is depression. Children who become victims of Facebook depression are vulnerable to social isolation, substance abuse, unsafe sexual behaviors, aggression, and suicidal behaviors.

Privacy concerns are among the main problems of social media use among preteens. Privacy and confidentiality are issues promoted by the limited knowledge and understanding of children. They need guidance to learn more about how they should navigate online applications to avoid potential risks. However, social media does not provide options for the kids to learn about significant aspects that ensure the privacy and confidentiality of their information. O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson argue that preteens lack awareness of privacy issues (802). Therefore, they may publish inappropriate information on social media that can be used by malicious individuals to harm them or their loved ones. Information that preteens post may affect their future lives.

Studies suggest that preteens are more likely to develop anti-social behaviors due to their prolonged use of the social media. It makes the youth more used to computers as opposed to their socialization with people. The continuous communications in the virtual world can prevent children from acquiring essential social skills. The lack of social skills affects their emotional development since they hide everything in the screens. When preteens lack social skills, the develop difficulties in creating and sustaining friends in the real world. Furthermore, social media prevents them from having one-on-one communications, which are healthy for their well-being.

The self-identity of preteens has raised concerns over their well-being as a factor of social media use. Self-identity is crucial for defining the uniqueness of an individual. Moreover, traditional offline experiences and constructions have a significant influence on the understanding of preteens about their self-identity (Long and Chen 99). Social media influences the inner being of preteens. The formation of one’s identity often relies on the interpersonal communication. Since the use of social media limits interpersonal communication, its use may result in confusions concerning self-identity among children.

Although the use of social media has several disadvantages among preteens, proponents argue that the formulation of legislation limiting social media use may deny children potential benefits. O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson argue that social media provides a platform for socialization and communication (801). Staying connected with friends and family members is enhanced by the use of online platforms. Kids may stay in touch with their loved one even when they are in different geographic locations, enabling to develop the ability to sustain relationships. Social media sites provide opportunities for making new friends, thereby, developing social skills of preteens.

The virtual world enables children to gain benefits extending to the view of self, the community, and the world (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 801). Preteens who have access to social media are more likely to be confident in themselves. Their self-esteem improves when they interact with other individuals. Community groups have shifted to online platforms to reach more people. Preteens can participate in community activities through social media. The virtual world also enhances the creativity of children through the development and publishing of artistic contents. Social media contributes to the growth of ideas through the creation of blogs and playing online games. It is a source of acquiring their identities and unique social skills. The virtual world may also give preteens insights into what they expect to experience in the real world.

With the increase in the online presence of the young generation on online platforms, preteens can easily communicate with their classmates (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 801). Therefore, social media provides the opportunity to gather outside the classroom to work together as a team and share ideas about their classwork. Social media enhances the access to educational blogs that reinforce reading and writing skills and creativity among children (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 801). Educational blogs tailored from the children are valuable tools they can benefit from as they cover issues affecting them. Such tools can be used to change the behaviors and perception of preteens positively because they are customized to address their problems. Preteens may access health information while navigating through social media sites. It increases their capacity to promote their health. Therefore, there is no need for formulating policies restricting the use of social media.

Politics and social issues affecting the community are related. Politicians have the responsibility of formulating policies that help the society to address various issues. They also have a duty in regulating the use of social media among preteens to minimize or prevent its harmful effects. The chance of being elected or re-elected is dependent on the policies that a political entity is committed to achieving. Members of the society determine which politicians are elected or re-elected based on their manifesto. The society embraces politicians who they perceive support ideas that promote social, economic, physical and psychological well-being. Political leaders influence what the government brings to the people.

In conclusion, I support the formulation of policies that control the use of social media by children under the age of thirteen years. Preteens are in a stage of development and have limited knowledge and understanding of the virtual world. Therefore, they need a controlled environment that promotes the exposure to online contents that promotes social, emotional, mental, psychological, and physical well-being. Legislations will prevent harmful aspects of social media from affecting developments of preteens negatively. A controlled environment is crucial as it gives children the opportunity to benefit from real-world experiences and their interactions from online platforms. It is the responsibility of politicians to elect leaders who can resolve social issues such as the use of social media among children. Members of the society should also select leaders who can advocate for policies that address their issues.

Works Cited

Long, Janet H. and Guo-Ming Chen. “The Impact of Internet Usage on Adolescent Self Identity Development.” China Media Research, vol. 3, no. 1, 2007, pp. 99–109.

Mares, Marie-Louise and Valerie Kretz. “Media Effects on Children’s Social and Moral Development.” Elsevier SciTech Connect, 2015.

NORC at the University of Chicago. "New survey: Snapchat and Instagram are most popular social media platforms among American teens: Black teens are the most active on social media and messaging apps." ScienceDaily, 21 April 2017.

O'Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson. "The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families." Pediatrics 127.4 (2011): 800-804.

May 02, 2023

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