Banning = Secret Accounts
Now hear me out. I am not saying you shouldn't limit their access or moderate them. You should do those things, but not allowing it at all is just asking for trouble in the long run.
Banning social media is a lot like abstinence-only education. They are not going to listen to you, so why not give them the resources needed to prevent unwanted outcomes? Talk to them about what is safe and not safe.
Get the apps yourself! Try them out, see what it does and learn how to use it. Read the terms and learn how to change the privacy settings. The more familiar you are with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and whatever new crazy app there is, the less scary it becomes.
I still don't agree with going the ban route even if you talk to them because they will just create secret accounts you have no knowledge of and if something they aren't sure about pops up, they aren't going to be able to go to you for help as they will fear being punished, which could potentially put them in danger.
Secret accounts may still happen if you let them have social media as kids want to hide things from their parents. Think back when you were a kid, I bet there was a lot you did that your parents don't' know about to this day! However, I like to believe that if something super uncomfortable popped up, like that suicide YouTube video that happened awhile back, a child would be more inclined to talk to their parent who is open to social media rather than one who is not, as they would be more afraid of the repercussions for not following the rules.
If you are afraid of child grooming or predators, educate your child about these things and teach them to never give out personal information to people they don't know. I wouldn't go as far as to say they can't talk to strangers at all, some of the best friends I have made were over the internet! I was an introvert growing up and making friends was difficult, having that online community really helped me and without it, I probably would have been a depressed teen.
I'm going to share an embarrassing story now of what happened to me as a young teen, one that only a select few know. I actually did have an internet crush and found out we lived in the same state. I don't know if my parents were really open to social media as it just started popping up when I was a teen, but they weren't strict about it so I felt comfortable enough to talk to them about meeting my online friend at a park (with my parents present of course). They agreed, but it fell through as he made up some story that may or may not have been true.
My parents then explained to me the dangers of talking to strangers online and so I deleted him (or it could have been a woman, who knows?) and we never spoke again, and I never tried to meet anyone I met online again. I did still talk to people online because my friends didn't share all the same interests as me. I needed that social interaction, but I knew to only keep it online from that point on and to never share personal information.
If my parents had just decided to ban social media, I may have tried to sneak off to meet him alone, which is what happens in a lot of those child abductions and pedophile cases. Don't let that happen to your child. Talk to them about the dangers, don't just ban social media and think that will be the solution.
I would have loved for someone to have told me the dangers before I started chatting with people online, but unfortunately, I was part of the guinea pig generation and didn't get the talk until after the fact. At least my experience will help me when it comes to raising my daughter in this internet age.
If you are worried about cyberbullying, then you need to focus on bullying in the real world. Online bullying is just schoolyard bullying taken to the internet. These are people your child already knows! It is very rare and uncommon for someone to just randomly bully a stranger online, and if so, it is easier to block a random person than someone you see every day in school. Just because your child isn't on social media, doesn't mean they won't get bullied (source). I was actually bullied in school, but never online. By the time I was on social media, I was a teen and already avoiding those people.
Instead of trying to shield your child, teach them how to handle a bully and better yet, teach them how not to be a bully. Bullies are often a result of a bad home life. Their actions are actually more of a cry for help. If you want to raise kind kids, then you need to show them how to be a kind person. I believe that children are a reflection of their parents, so be the best role model you can be.
You can read more about bullying my previous post here.
Education is Key
Banning social media or even more extreme, the internet, will also severely limit your kid in our technology-driven world. They won't know how to navigate or use the online world like their peers, which may put them at a disadvantage depending on what career path they take. Many jobs now also only have applications available online as it saves, money, time and paper.
I also feel a lot of people, especially parents, just have this huge fear of the internet and social media. As a blogger, I am on these daily. I use almost all the sites so I know all the rules, which ones have more privacy, which ones are safer, and I have seen what is on there, which for the most part, is not all that bad. Maybe that is why I am more comfortable with the idea of my daughter being on social media in the future?
I think more parents would feel more comfortable with social media as well if they used it, so I highly encourage you, if you aren't already, to get on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever apps kids are using today and learn how to use them. The more informed you are, the better you will feel about your child being on them and be able to educate them on how to use them safely and properly.
I will agree that not all apps are safe, Snapchat crosses the line with its "disappearing" pictures, but I think your best bet is to just educate your child that those pictures don't actually just "disappear." However, the moment you tell them not to use it is the moment they will start finding a way to get on it, so you just kind of have to hope you can teach your child the dangers and have faith that they are intelligent enough to use it in a safe way.
In the end, it is your decision, but as someone who grew up just when social media started popping up, I somehow managed to learn how to play it safe. Sure I made a mistake, we all do, but luckily I had parents I could turn to.
Kids today don't have to be the guinea pigs as most will have parents who have used social media, so they will have plenty of guidance, which will help them make safer and better choices online.
- Social Psychology Quarterly - Toxic Ties
- Why Banning Social Media Is Not the Best Answer for Kids
- American Teens are Taking Breaks from Social Media; Some Step Back Deliberately, but Other Breaks are Involuntary
- Banning your kids from social media could hurt them, study finds
- Social media for children and teenagers
- Banning Teens From Social Media Is Not The Way To Keep Them Safe
- Banning kids from using technology is counter-productive