A REALISTIC WAY TO PROTECT KIDS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA? FIND A MIDDLE GROUND
Techlife News|June 08, 2024
Ahmed Othman isn’t on TikTok and doesn’t want to be.
A REALISTIC WAY TO PROTECT KIDS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA? FIND A MIDDLE GROUND

He and his younger sister got iPhones when they were in eighth and seventh grade respectively, but with no social media, just iMessage. Their parents, who are both computer scientists, spent the next year teaching them about social media, bombarding them with studies about its effects on teen mental health.

“They really tried to emphasize social media is a tool, but can also be like your worst enemy if you so make it,” Othman said.

Now 17, Othman credits his parents’ deep involvement for what he calls a “healthy relationship” with his phone. That includes staying away from TikTok.

“The algorithm is so potent that I feel like, you know, TikTok might not benefit me,” he said.

Othman, who’s originally from Libya and lives in Massachusetts, is an outlier among his peers, nearly two-thirds of whom are on TikTok either with or without their parents’ permission, according to the Pew Research Center.

Othman’s parents took a middle ground approach that a growing number of experts say is the most realistic and effective way of teaching children about social media: Rather than an outright ban or allowing free reign, they recommend a slow, deliberate onboarding that gives children the tools and information they need to navigate a world in which places like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are almost impossible to escape.

“You cannot just expect that the kids will jump into the world of social media, learn how to swim on their own,” said Natalie Bazarova, a professor of communications and director of the Cornell Social Media Lab. “They need to have instruction. They need to have practice on how to behave on social media. They need to have understanding of risks and opportunities. And they also need to learn that in a way that is age appropriate.”

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This story is from the June 08, 2024 edition of Techlife News.

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