Since the dawn of the internet age, children have been involved in the growing network of users who understand the ups and downs of technology. With cell phones with internet capabilities becoming more commonplace than the simple calling feature of yesteryear (I recently purchased my first iPhone and it has more capabilities then we could ever have dreamed of only twenty years ago!), kids as are now becoming exposed to these devices at a much earlier age than the previous generation. With new precedents for technology use becoming apparent, a new decade of children are getting used to the intricate workings of gadgets that their parents are not as familiar with. The implications for these changes are immense, especially with many parents oblivious to the Facebook activity, for example, of their children and what types of websites they might be visiting at any given time.
When talking about younger children on Facebook, the under-thirteen age group are not even allowed to sign up for the site, yet many get around that barrier. Since Facebook was originally designed and targeted at college-age kids and young adults, the content that these children are viewing might be mature for their age range. While the pre-teen of today is more savvy about life than the pre-teen of even ten years ago, there is still is a discrepancy between the world that younger children live in and the world created by high school and college students on social media websites. While websites like Google or Yahoo! able to give answers to any questions that you type in, the information that children can acquire from simply being on Facebook can be just as impressionable. If their older siblings are on Facebook, they have the ability to see pictures of the party culture and other mature themes, unless they are limited from seeing that information by the user. By simply viewing this information, their world is altered and expanded through virtual means. While many pre-teens might be adept at handling social media and take the images they see with a seasoned eye, this is the first generation who are full witnesses to the expanding sphere of social networking. Is this new influence on children as young as five to the pre-teen years something that should be encouraged or ignored?
There are many ways to approach this topic, including mentioning the ideas that parents have already put into place to keep children safe. According to The Kansas City Star, there is a new software available called Proactive Parenting Network, or PPN, which seeks to be able to monitor sites like Facebook and search engines for words that should spark concern, especially in regards to cyber bullying or topics inappropriate to their age group like drinking or drugs. By being able to safeguard young children through internet tracking software, children from young age groups are able to become savvy with the internet without being as at risk for child predators or surfing non-age appropriate material. Another article from a radio station talks about the merits of age-appropriate social networking sites instead of Facebook, such as Togetherville and What’s What, which primarily cater to elementary school age children. By finding alternatives to Facebook and other questionable sites for young children, it’s possible to find a safe, educational alternative for children in regards to social media.
While these ideas are bringing solutions to the problem of mature material being visible to the young child, the implications of the growing technological revolution on children are interesting to ponder. Apparently the creator of Facebook himself, Mark Zuckerberg , sees a future in education through the removal of age restrictions on his site, according to Fortune Magazine. What will the social networking world look like when it’s a complete free-for-all? Will young children be more exposed to the world beyond their place in life, especially in terms of social interactions and life experience? Although this might be already happening due to all of the mass media available nowadays, including television and video games, social networking is less than a decade old in popularity. There is still much to witness in terms of changes in technology, which constantly evolving and molding to the new environments that our increasingly wireless world is creating. In order to flow with the times, one must change and adapt. While social media might not be the best choice for young children, as they should continue to live and experience the world in a tangible sense, safeguards and monitoring are equally effective in keeping young internet users safe and happy while exploring new technology.