Digital Innocence: How young is TOO young for little people to get active in Social Media?

    Sam Mutimer

    Last week I discussed whether the secondary school education system should embrace Social Media within the classroom- I reckon it’s a no brainer and after spreading the article on Twitter amongst some teachers and education professionals it was unanimous that this is the way the education system should go.
    Today I am compelled to talk about a similar topic that came to mind when I stumbled upon an article in Mashable titled: How to help your child set up a blog.
    This kinda freaked me out to be honest because I am convinced the next Generation will end up never getting enough sunlight and social interaction with people face to face and we will end up with an army of socially suppressed pint-sized vampire-esk teenagers that haven’t got any muscle definition for all the sitting they have completed in their formative years. I don’t believe kids below the ago of 10 should know how to build Facebook apps. But that’s just me.
    I am an advocate for anything that educates people about Social Media however I am not sure how I feel about 10 year old kids discussing the pro’s and con’s of the ergonomical design of the new Nintendo Wii remote or live streaming Apple’s press conferences on their own blog sites. Dude, what happened to backyard cricket and British Bulldogs? Have the young generation gone soft? (British Bulldogs has been banned from being played in schools since the late 90’s because kids get hurt too easily – which supports my theory of kids being soft) Who never recovered from being hit in the face with a Rounders bat honestly? These times are important to development are they not?
    Which leads me to the question: Are kids that are heavily involved in Social Media losing their digital innocence? – Shouldn’t they just be concentrating on playing foursquare ( the schoolyard game not location-based social networking website) and swapping footy cards with their friends in their recess breaks?
    I cant quite comprehend the fact that 3rd graders have iPhones and that kids in grade 6 can write HTML code, 10 year olds can navigate their way through WordPress better than I can. Its just seems…. precocious.
    What are the risks associated with children engaging with Social Media too early? (My opinion is that any child under the age of 10 is too early) 25% of children under the age of 13 are heavily using social media – this percentage is growing and the reason is that Social Media is universally acknowledged as a utility, much like your electricity bill or your phone account- and even 5 year olds have phones these days. (I swear a race of pale faced tiny tech heads with create a sub government and currency of their own, I am pretty sure there is a Twilight Zone episode about this).
    These risks include but are not limited to:

    1. Missing out on social, physical, mental and emotional development – can be fixed by making a ramp out of an old gate and a trolley and riding your bike over it with your mates.
    2. Kids will often sit on Social Media sites such as Facebook for hours alone which can lead to Social Isolation problems later in life – trust me, we all know someone like this, don’t let it happen to your little ones. I am pretty sure I dated a few guys who I wish I could blame early childhood addiction to computers for their dysfunction, but sadly I can only blame my choice in men.
    3. Control over content: Parents can control what their children can search and see however this is the internet, there are loopholes that even those involved in the industry aren’t aware of, the other day one of the developers at Thinktank Media sent me a text message from his computer to my phone from the Directors number…scared the hell out of me!

    Kids deserve to preserve their innocence and spend that amazing time creating forts out of the couch cushions and being totally excited about your parents buying a new washing machine because the box it comes in makes for a wicked cubby house. Not to mention making stylish hats out of empty Neapolitan ice cream tubs.
    There is plenty of time for kids to get involved in Social Media in a safe manner when they hit the right age, but before that time, give your kid a Spiderman costume for Christmas, not a keyboard.
    IF you don’t agree with me and believe your child should have a blog and a Facebook page, then do it properly and educate yourself about each platform. Some useful sites of Kids Blogging done well:
    What do you think? Do you think that kids can benefit from using Social Media early in life?
    I know there are some kids aged 8 and 9 who are hugely popular in the blogosphere and hey, maybe I am just jealous of their snappy prowess and engaging writing for such tiny people. Maybe.
    Happy Tuesday y’all