Last year, 81 percent of the U.S. population had a social networking profile – that’s according to Statista.com.
For so many kids, social media is a part of everyday life.
But that’s not always a good thing.
Bullying and safety are everyday threats to a young person’s life as technology advances.
KX News reporter Becky Farr spoke with two mother-daughter pairs to learn just how much social media impacts our kids.
“Sometimes I like it because I can keep in touch with my friends and people who have moved. And then sometimes I don’t like it because you just don’t get to talk to people in person as much,” ninth grader, Leelah Ramirez said.
She is one of the 2.3 billion world-wide users of social media.
So is Dakotah Harvey.
“I use it more to like, save memories from years ago so that I could look back at it and think like, ‘oh that was fun’ and remember old friends and stuff,” Dakotah said.
BF: “What don’t you like about it?”
(Leelah) “I feel like if I didn’t have a phone, you’d just be able to talk to more people in person instead of just on a screen.
(Dakotah) “I notice there are a lot of people who make other people feel good and good comments, but every once in a while I do see like, not very good comments.”
(Leelah) “Yeah, there are a lot of good compliments and people kind of like, bring each other up, like ‘oh you look good in that photo,’ but every now and then, there are some bad comments too.”
BF: Do you think people are addicted to likes?
(Dakotah) “Yeah, some people are.” (Leelah) “I think they’re just addicted to their phones sometimes, in general.”
I wanted to know if its the need to be liked, or just the desire for constant communication that’s the draw for young kids. Dr. Manisha Sawhney, a Phsycology Professor, says it’s complicated.
“The whole thing about smartphones is, we love social interactions,” Dr. Sawhney said. “We want to be able to interact with others – however, the sad part is, the people who are sitting with us – we’re not paying attention to them.”
So digital social lives do affect face to face communication.
Most parents didn’t grow up with social media, or even cell phones, so learning to balance a child’s social life that now begins with a smartphone, can be a challenge.
Sharla Ramirez, Leelah’s mom, said “The biggest thing would be that they don’t really know who they’re talking to. Like you never know if that person, is that real person that’s on there or not. It could be someone totally different.
“Being able to get that fine line of – I want to know what she’s doing, I want to know who she’s talking to, I want to know how much she’s talking to them,” Charitty Harvey, Dakotah’s mom, said. “You know, you have the rule, ‘don’t, don’t, don’t’ talk to anybody you don’t know. But, you also have to have a little bit of trust too.”
BF: Do you feel out of control when it comes to keeping track of it all?
(Sharla) “Yeah, because I guess you just never know. You do have to trust them. I mean, you can take their phone and look but they can easily delete something, you know.”
(Charitty) “I very much trust Dakotah and what she’s doing. My biggest failure is I don’t know how to use most of those things. So I have access to her phone, I can get in there whenever I want, but I’d have to know how to use it.”
BF: With that fear of the unknown, do you feel like there are benefits to your kids’ being on social media?
(Charrity) Dakotah learns a lot. She watches an ungodly amount of videos, how-to this and how-to that, and she’s learned a lot. She’s into photography and I think that’s where she’s learning all that stuff too.”
(Sharla) It’s good, it helps us keep in touch with family who’s not around here. We have a lot of family in Texas and out of state.”
BF: So what are the best things, and what are the worst things?
(Dakotah) “The best thing about it is probably a way to keep in touch with your friends. The worst thing is that it gives a really good opportunity for people to bully other people.”
(Leelah) “Yeah, I think the best thing about is, say if you move, you can still keep in touch with your friends. But I think a bad thing about it is, sometimes people talk more on social media than they do in person, so it’s a whole bunch of that, and you don’t really get to talk to people as much in person than ‘back then’ or stuff like that.”
So where does social media fall on the scale of good and evil?
Dakotah, Leelah and their moms say it could be impersonal and dangerous, but that it’s also fun, entertaining, and sometimes educational.
At times, it can be a burden, but it still has billions of users logging on every single day.