Smart Phones and Kids: Protecting Them From Themselves

It wasn’t that long ago that I took a hard look at my Facebook page and I didn’t like what I saw. After hours of slashing through pictures of my freshman year of high school, notes titled “25 things you should know about me,” and random groups I joined (e.g. I hate my study hall teacher), I finally whittled my page down to something presentable. Now imagine the damage I could have done if I had the same technology at 9-years-old.

But now that it’s 2013, easy access to smartphone technology is what kids and parents are dealing with. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog, “Is a Smartphone a Dumb Idea for a Small Child?” Catherine Pearlman writes about her friend’s pre-tween daughter using an iPod Touch, which works like a smartphone when Wi-Fi is available, to text her friends. This got me thinking, if kids can use iPhones to text, couldn’t they just as easily use apps like Instagram and Facebook? According to Pearlman, most kids are obsessed with their friends during the tween and teen years; they’re insecure, desperate to fit in, impulsive, and forgetful. This sounds like the worst possible time to introduce smartphone technology that instantly lets kids post public, non-erasable information about themselves online.

Today, my friend’s 11-year-old sister takes “duck-face” selfies along with Instagram videos of herself singing, and she shares them with her 175 followers. I wonder how well she knows her followers. I’m not even sure I knew 175 people when I was 11, let alone 175 people I would want to share videos of myself with. During my middle school days, I also didn’t know what a flatiron was, I had braces, and I was not allowed to wear makeup. Would this have been the ideal time to take selfies? I think not. Though the idea of a 6th grader with an Instagram profile is scary, she did figure out how to make her account private, which could prevent anyone and everyone viewing her page. This is something I hope all kids do until they learn impulse control.

While it’s frightening to think that any public information could also be accessed and used by child predators, it’s more likely that the images and posts could sabotage kids’ chances of getting into a great college or being hired for a dream job later on. Plus, pre-tween posts might simply lead to future embarrassment.

Now that I’m older, I’m glad that my childhood memories are safely hid away in scrapbooks and on home videos. I just hope that parents today think about how social media apps leave digital footprints and can affect their kid’s reputations and identities in the future.

Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock

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