What to Watch Out For with Social Media Sites

Today, I am writing this post from Asia. It is amazing what technology makes possible! I, and a few my Growing Leaders teammates, have been here for the past week, training business leaders, youth workers, church leaders and parents who lead Generation iY. Over this week I will be reflecting on some of the lessons I’ve learned during my time here but today, I wanted to start the week with this:

A few months ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report, warning parents, teachers, coaches and youth workers about how much we need to guide young people in their use of social media websites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Club Penguin, Sims Blogs and even Twitter and YouTube.

According to the report, three of every four teens have a cell phone, and more than half are up on social media sites multiple times a day. Almost one fourth of them are on these sites ten times a day or more. This is probably not a newsflash. What may be, however, are the psychological “red flags” that fly today due to the increased time kids spend with social media. Let me share three with you.

First, there is a new phenomenon called “Facebook Depression.” Some kids who are at risk for social isolation, anxiety or depression seek connection on-line. If they don’t find it, they may spiral into depression. Author and pediatrician Gwen O’Keefe says, “Their lack of connection in the on-line world amplifies what’s happening in the real world.”

Second, “Cyberbullies.”  More and more students are on-line, and take pleasure in causing angst to others on-line. Cyberbullying is defined as spreading false, embarrassing or hostile information about another person. This is prevalent because kids who may not have the guts to do it in person—may feel they can do it on-line and never get caught.

Third, “Sexting” and exposure to other inappropriate images or information on-line. Sexting is sending or receiving sexually explicit photos or message via cell phone. Parents should know, too, however, that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Porn is everywhere and is often free and easy to access. Both sexting and pornography can have moral, emotional and legal repercussions.

Caring adults need to be guides. The screen cannot be a one-eyed babysitter. As soon as kids go on-line, parents need to begin teaching them about the digital world. In addition, adults need to encourage kids to disconnect and enjoy the unplugged world as well. This is how we grow healthy and mature young adults.

What are your thoughts? Are there other cautions you have in addition to the ones above?  What are they?

Tim

What to Watch Out For with Social Media Sites