Young girl taking selfie with phone

Developmental Stages of Access to Social Media Grades 1-4 (part 2)

In There's a Stranger in My House by Dr James Wellborn

Video games.  Pay very close attention to the messages your kid will get from the video games they play.  Video games are programmed.  That means someone has decided what the appropriate, reasonable or desirable response should be to each and every situation the character encounters.  Someone else is shaping your kid’s values, over and over again.  Kids should only play kid games.  And make sure you review the game before you let them loose on it.  There are some good sites like this one that provide information for parents.  Do not allow kids this age to play games on devices that have direct access to the internet (see internet section above).  Do not let kids this age play online video games; there is too much that can go wrong.

Cell Phone.  Kids this age should not have phones that have access to the internet.  They should only be able to upload apps by having you do it for them.  And, I know what I’m saying here, kids this age should not be texting.  The problem with texting is that your kid can become part of an extended network of forwarded and group texts.  Any time your kid has access to the entire world of people without having to come through you is a disaster waiting to happen.  The worst form of this is the internet.  The next most problematic is cellular connectivity.  Texting interferes with the development of verbal and social skill development.  Texting removes your kid from direct interaction with others in the world both because they are busy texting (and not paying attention to people who are actually present) and because they are texting instead of talking to or hanging out with real people.  Increasingly, cell phone manufacturers like this one  and service providers are providing parents with greater control of specific features.  Make sure you get a phone that allows you to disable the features that can end up damaging your kid with inappropriate information, images or socialization.

Camera or video.  They are everywhere on every electronic device.  They are trouble waiting to happen.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to disable the cameras on many smart devices and computers (though there are some manufacturers of smart phones that give parents control over specific features.  Make sure your kid doesn’t take pictures unless you are there with them.  Make sure you check their images on a regular basis.  Consider taking epoxy glue and covering the cell phone camera lens.  Just be done with it.

Blogs and chat rooms.  Never.  Under no circumstances.  (And here is the reason why.)  your kid wants to write about their experiences, get them a diary (made of paper). If they want to chat with friends, have them call them or invite them over.  There is no good from kids (at any age) having a blog or going into chat rooms.

Social media account.  The rules for the most popular social media accounts specify that participants must be at least 13.  Your kid should be reading instead of updating their social media pages.  They should be talking directly to their friends rather than posting things on their wall.  They should be interacting with real friends rather than people labeled friends who are not even casual acquaintances.  If you kid wants to find out what their friends are trending they should ask them and not follow a graph on their social media page.  If their friends are going to exert influence over their preferences and choices it should be in conversation; not by what they have “liked” online.  Instant communication about thoughts and preferences leads to a focus on superficial, provocative characteristics rather than fundamental (meaningful) qualities.

Kids in grades 1-4 are not ready to use their own judgment about what is best for them and are certainly not capable of assessing whether they are ready to be exposed to more mature or sophisticated material or experiences.  They will need to mature cognitively and socially as well as develop greater self-regulation over impulses and actions before you allow them a greater say in their use of the internet and social media.  That will begin to slowly evolve in the next developmental phase.

Next week:  Developmental Stages of Access to Social Media:  Grades 5-6 Extreme Monitoring

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