The invention and development of mobile devices, internet and social media platforms has highly changed the society. People are currently interacting more virtually than they do physically, especially in social media. Digital technology has turn to be very popular not just to the grownups but also to children and teenagers. Most teenagers today have social media accounts where they interact with their peer, post their updates, photos, and videos among other things. Sometimes these teenagers are engaged in activities that could be considered unhealthy for their age and future. Social media has been associated with growth of a number of vices for young children which include cyber bullying, and radicalization of teenagers among others. This has made most parents reluctant to permit their children to use social media unsupervised. The European commission’s General Data Protection Regulation enacted regulation demanding parental consent prior to commercial services processing of personal information for children below 16 years old, which was later reduced to 13 years (Magid 1). This move initiated a debate on whether parents should be permitted to limit the use of social media by teenagers. This paper evaluates varying positions regarding this matter.
The use of social media has increased among the world population in the recent past. Today, most people including teenagers spend a considerable amount of their time on the social media. This has been highly facilitated by growth in smartphone use among teenagers. According to atechnology use survey conducted in 2014 to 2015 by Anderson and Jiang (1), ownership of smartphone has turned to a nearly universal element of life of teens where by 95% of teens currently report having access or owning a smartphone. These mobile links are consequently fueling more-persistent activities online, such that about 45% of teenagers now claiming they are online on an almost-constant basis. The use of social media by teens has for a number of reasons been considered unsafe. According to Ramasubbu (1), peer pressure susceptibility and difficulty in or lack of self-regulation makes teens in social media vulnerable to various evils that include cyber bullying, sexting, and facebook depression, which are genuine threats. Social media also introduces other life threats that include sleep deprivation, internet addiction and social network-induced obesity. Despite the risks, social networking certainly plays a crucial role in learning technical skills and extending social links. After weighing the risks and benefits, different individuals have conflicting stands regarding allowing or disallowing teenagers to use social media with or without parental supervision.
Exposure of teens to social media has both risks and benefits. However, the risks experience in teens’ exposure to social media can be minimized through parental control. Parental control in this case involves knowing the teenager virtual social connection that include the child’s friends the kind of stuffs those kids share or discuss in the social media. This will make it possible for parents to guide their children on how to use social media responsibly for their own benefit and t protect innocent teens from encountering challenges that may come along with unmonitored exposure to social media. Parental monitoring ensures that teens are not involved in risky behaviors that can influence their future negatively. It also guide teens in understanding why some information should not be shared in a public platform, especially in the internet where such information can easily be duplicated such that it is hard to completely eliminated it in the social platform after posting it. Thisensures that they are able to use the social media responsibly even in the future.
However not everyone thinks that teens use of social media should be limited. According toDrexler (1) limiting teens use of social media either through direct snooping to their social accounts or though indirect snooping by viewing their pages as close friends do infringes their right to privacy. Teens are entitled to privacy especially in social media where one can say things that are not even true to fit in. Parental interference may discourage teens from interacting freely with their teens and thus, making them missing out on important personal growth matters or in skills earned by use of modern technology.
In Drexler(1) views enacting supervision law creates a great possibility for some young people whose parents are illiterate, lack technology knowledge or have limited access to this technology to miss out on important technological aspect in their growth, as most of them will not find importance of consenting to such technologies. Moreover, some parents may shy away from filling in the consent in fear of being exposed to government agencies especially the immigration. Consequently there will be a high level of imbalance among youths on the development of technical skills acquired in social media use. Thus, parental involvement in the use of social media may limit the technology use of these teens creating imbalance in teens’ technological development.
Gould and Guardian Readers (1) refute the idea of parental limit in teens use of social media claiming that teens freedom in use of social media teaches kids an essential lesson on how to conduct themselves in a virtual environment. It teaches them on the meaning of public, what to share in public and what to remain in private through experience. It also teaches that some mistakes done over the internet cannot be erased. This cannot be learnt by being strictly supervised but by letting them exposed, to be able to learn. This gives them the knowledge they require to be able to behave responsibly over the social media in the future. In Gould and Guardian Readers views, parents can protect their children from the social media vices without surveillance to their act in the social media. According to him, most of the vices in social media are not caused by technology, but by individual behaviors. Thus, it is enough for parents to speak to their children, caution them on the vices and give them the freedom they need. In Gould and Guardian Readers, parental guidance and trust will be enough to caution a teen on what to do and not to do in social media.
The main strength of refuting argument is that the individual involvement in social media is basically defined by individual behavior. This implies that a child who is well behaved will find it inappropriate to have some kind of discussion in social media or sharing some pornographic materials in the social media. This implies that the situation is not defined by the system, but by individuals. Refuters consider limitations of teens on social media by parents as an interference of right. This is a weak argument since no parent would offer privacy right to jeopardize their children’s safety. Children have right to be safe and to be protected from social vices that can destroy their future.
Exposure of teens to social media can be beneficial to them and risky at the same time. After weighing the goodness and vices of this act, the regulation body found it necessary to demand parental supervision for younger teens. This is a great move in protecting negative social media influence to young kids. However, the critics’ terms this as interference of children’s right and as a way of limiting the development of their inner control. They also think that this can create inequality in the development of technological skills among teens, especially for those whose parents have other personal reasons to limit their use of technology. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that social media is a new technology that is likely to influence teens life both negatively and positively. Parents thus have a role to safeguard their children from social media vices and promote its positive outcome.