There was a time I thought Facebook was just a fad like bell bottoms, the “Rachel” haircut or “Vote for Pedro” shirts. I was wrong. The platform, once known as “The Facebook” , was a way for Harvard students to connect with one another. Facebook eventually opened their doors to allow other universities to become a part of this online community. Soon after, the “the” was removed and the company became Facebook and over time, a wider net was cast to include everyone over 13 with a valid email address. Here’s what I find interesting…I remember all that.
However, we are looking at an upcoming generation of children who won’t ever know life without Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, or TikTok. Physicians and Psychologists are unclear how social media and screen time in general affects children. However, we do know that technology is so much a part of their lives that we’d be naive to think it won’t have any impact at all. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 750 13-17 year olds revealed that 45 percent of those kids were online continuously and 97 percent used some kind of social media platform…all BEFORE the pandemic, so you can imagine what those statistics might be now!
The New York Times reported that the gaming app Roblox had an 82% increase in teenage users within the first 9 months of the pandemic. The app averaged 31.3 million users a day!
Clinical Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair says this, “”What we know is that social media per se, is based on the attention economy, and is designed to deprive kids of their capacity to engage in the real world by seducing them into being data, and economic sources of remuneration for people who develop apps and certain games. And what we do know is that smartphones aren’t phones, they’re very powerful stimulants to our brains, and they are designed to grab our attention.””
A childhood that is spent on devices with elaborate graphics and fast-paced activities rather than face to face interaction is troublesome. Some of the repercussions that medical and educational professionals are witnessing are lack of self control, trouble focusing for extended periods of time (on something other than technology), the need for constant stimulation, deficits in active listening, poor large and fine motor development, the inability to empathize with others, a limited vocabulary range, and the list goes on. While we can acknowledge that there are things we don’t know about the long term effects of screen time on our youngest generation, what we DO know is that there is plenty to be cautious about.
In light of this, how about we take a break from screens and show our kids what life was like before “The Facebook”. They might like it even better!