I watched a documentary in which a concerned father explained in detail his terrifying experience posing as his daughter online. He discovered his teen was chatting with a stranger on social media. After reading their back-and-forth, he got very concerned for her safety. He told his daughter this isn’t safe. Then, rather than cutting off all communication, he resumed the conversation himself , pretending to be his daughter. The stranger eventually invited “her” to meet. The dad went instead, with police, and confronted a person who turned out to be a predator expecting to meet a child for sex.
Too much freedom online, especially for kids on social media, is dangerous. The more we give to our kids, the more danger we potentially put them in. Still, kids think they can handle the freedom. They may even come up with convincing arguments to get you to allow more of it. Stand strong, Dad. Here are 5 reasons not to give your kids freedom on social media.
1. Kids won’t disconnect from social media easily.
A study by Stanford University revealed that nearly all children in the U.S. have a smartphone by age 15. For many, that device comes with the expectation of using social media. A 2021 poll found nearly half of kids aged 10–12 are already using social media. If your kids haven’t asked yet, they will soon, and if you say yes, prepare to see the tops of their heads. A lot.
Once kids are on social media, they always want to be on it because it offers them connection. But, that connection has drawbacks. Social media becomes addictive and can lead to depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues due to the user’s natural inclination to compare themselves to what they see on the screen. If you are going to allow your child to use social media, take initiative, set boundaries, monitor the apps, and be willing to say, “That connection has become destructive.”
2. Kids think they are mature.
A study done by the Wall Street Journal found TikTok promoting sexual content to kids under 15, including videos with pornography, drugs, and alcohol use. There is a reason the Motion Picture Association of America established a movie ratings system in 1968. Elementary-aged kids aren’t mature enough to handle R-rated content.
The same goes for social media, which can be a playground for mature visuals. Kids’ brains are wired to mimic what they see. The consequences of seeing inappropriate content before you’re mature enough to handle it include attitude changes, risky behavior, and poor decision making. It’s a trap kids don’t know exists.
3. Kids think they are bulletproof.
I remember driving home by myself from a friend’s house as a teen. I had just gotten my driver’s license and felt invincible, right up until the moment I sped through a yellow light and got T-boned in the intersection. This was years before smartphones added distractions for drivers. I just made a dumb decision. Kids do it all the time. Had a parent been there in the passenger seat, they would have screamed at me to hit the brakes. Picture your child as the driver of his or her social media account. Will your son or daughter make the right choice if you’re not there?Kids on social media are manipulated daily without even knowing it.
4. Kids are easily influenced.
Kids on social media are manipulated daily without even knowing it. Whatever is considered “cool” is inevitably copied. I remember looking ridiculous after dying my hair to look more like the popular N’Sync guys. Social media is the ultimate megaphone for what is “cool,” and kids may not be able to tell the difference between what is simply trendy and what is truly good for them. Dyed hair is harmless, really. Not all social media suggestions will be.
5. Kids think social media is safe.
It’s not safe, it’s suggestive. It’s not innocent, it’s addictive. It’s not calm, it’s coercive. Social media has many drawbacks, but the allure of safety may be its greatest. Too much freedom on social media often leads kids away from what their parents would consider safe. It lures young minds into the trap of comparison, encourages them to overshare, and deflates self-esteem.
Any feeling of freedom kids feel when on social media isn’t truly freedom. It’s designed for them to scroll endlessly to find community that will affirm and encourage them toward what they already think or want to think. Consider how far you want your kids to wander when on social platforms and how long of a leash is best.
Sound off: What about social media presents the biggest problem for you as a parent?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you like best about social media?”