The good news on kids and social media

We often hear about the downsides of social media for children and teens, however there are two sides to the coin argues Technology Expert Dr Joanne Orlando.

As you are reading this, millions of people around the globe are on social media.

Every 60 seconds 47,000 images are uploaded to Instagram, 3.3 million Facebook posts are uploaded, and half a million tweets are twittered.

“It’s become an integral part of life today, particularly for teenagers,” says Dr Orlando.

“Statistics show that 96 per cent of students who have internet access are using at least one social network. The majority of teens use at least three social media platforms.

“While we often hear about the negative impact social media has on children, sites like Instagram and Facebook can have many educational benefits,” she says.

Social media can provide insight and understanding

The researcher and tech expert says social media can help kids access new types of information that builds on textbook learning.

“Even schools are now using Instagram instead of textbooks to help kids learn,” she says.

“Imagine a high school student studying Picasso. Instagram images can give them first-hand insight into how different artists today think about and use Picasso’s techniques in their artwork.

“This deepens their understanding of Picasso and reinforces the relevance of learning about his art.”

Dr Orlando says research also shows that social media advocacy groups can provide young people with genuine support for subjects they might feel marginalised by, for example their sexuality, or a mental health condition.

“Social media helps to strengthen existing friendships as well as form new friendships,” she says.

“64 per cent of young people say they have met new friends on social media. This can make a big difference to kids who move to a new area, don’t feel connected to their school community, or can’t attend school because of illness.”

Understanding the risks

The TechClever founder says while it’s important kids know how to keep safe when using social media, we should also show them where the value is to help them get the most out of their time online.

“Encourage participation in social media that focus on good causes and seeing other people’s perspectives,” she suggests.

“This is incredibly beneficial to a teen’s sense of psychological wellbeing and can improve their moods, sleep and behaviour.

“Be open to the benefits of social media and talk to your child about why they use social media and the value it has for them. Also focus on developing your own social media use to tap into its potential benefits.”

See more from Dr Orlando:

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