Why is social media so popular with young people?

There are many social platforms popular among young people : Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest,… used to connect with other people who share the same interests. But sometimes they lead to unpleasant facts, for this it is fair to understand what advantages and disadvantages they include.

Tik Tok, Chinese-owned – of the Bytedance company – has had an explosion of adhesions since 2018. The videos present have a variable duration from 15 to 60 seconds with background music, often with ridiculous and zany skits that tear a smile. In Italy, Tik Tok has reached more than 2.5 million active users.

Instagram is based on sharing photos and videos and allows you to follow the users you are interested in and its home page shows the recent posts of those you follow.

In recent times Tik Tok has been at the center of a tragic news story: the death of a 10-year-old girl, who took part in a deadly challenge, perhaps launched within the social network .

As you know, to subscribe to Tik Tok you must be at least 13 years of age and 16 for Instagram, yet many 12-year-olds already use them.

Why are these social networks so successful? Are we all aware and aware of the dangers they hide from you ?

After the provision of the Guarantor for the control of the age of minors, it is crucial to protect the navigation of adolescents and also of the little ones.

I wonder: is it correct to think of social networks as simple platforms, populated with content posted by users, without prior checking?

The solution obviously does not lie in going back to medieval times or in introducing forms of control that limit everyone’s freedom. However, a form of protection is needed for the most fragile users, less experienced and less equipped to distinguish good from evil. And in this context, minors are undoubtedly the most exposed.

Think about it, from the first months of life children are stimulated by stimuli that did not exist until about 15 years ago. Every child is intrigued by that mysterious yet tempting object that parents use all the time: the smartphone.

It is used in the presence of children to take their photos, videos and then post them – it won’t be you, but someone does – on social networks, to look for answers to the questions that children ask and understand certain behaviors, especially in the first months of life. .

Furthermore, during the period of confinement, parental relationships were also “technologized”, with video calls to grandparents, friends and relatives.

Therefore, from the very beginning of their life, children want their smartphone or tablet as if they were toys. Then when the children start going to school they become part of a new community whose language is fueled by the use of social media .

Age is just a number?

So it is legitimate to ask: what can we do to reduce risks and protect children?

I don’t think it is the best solution to limit the use of social media , on the contrary, the problem is not of the tool, but of the use that is made of it. As in all things “the fault” does not depend on the means. Furthermore, prohibiting or limiting its use would push children to do it secretly, more and more attracted.

There are two ways to go:

  1. The more complex and long one is linked to a question of instrument education. Very often, families are unable to pass on such education because parents are inattentive or misuse social media . We need a teaching that educates to a healthy use of social media and that informs children of the risks and dangers that may exist. The children are waiting to be helped.
  2. Introduce new access controls, as imposed by the Privacy Guarantor, which disputes the procedures for registering with social networks as they do not adequately protect minors. The ban on enrollment under the age of 13 is in fact easily circumvented if a false date of birth is used, consequently this would not prevent children from registering on social networks, nor would it verify the parental consent for those who have not turned 14. years. To have the certainty of age, the verification of the identity document would be the fastest and most effective way. If a boy goes to buy cigarettes or goes to a pub to consume alcoholic beverages, through an identity document, he must prove that he is of legal age.

Social media: advantages and disadvantages

Social media is an important part of our social life and also of many young people. Teens use them to have fun, make friends, share interests … and they can help them in various situations, such as:

  • Digital literacy → to develop knowledge and skills, take advantage of online activities and avoid risks.
  • Learning → by sharing educational content in school settings.
  • Mental Health → To connect with family and friends, taking part in an online community provides a sense of belonging.

But social media can also carry risks:

  • Inappropriate content → teens may be exposed to upsetting content, nasty, violent, aggressive or sexual comments and images. Such as embarrassing or provocative photos and videos of yourself or others.
  • Personal information → sharing your contacts or sensitive data with strangers.
  • Cyberbullying → a sneaky and widespread phenomenon among children and young people, with persecutions, threats and unwelcome comments in the world of the web.
  • Advertising → exposure to overly targeted advertisements.
  • Data breach → selling your data to other organizations.

How to help the kids?

Children and teenagers are encouraged to speak at home and at school to be protected from the risks of social media and to ensure their safety on the internet. Social media is increasingly incorporated into apps, games, websites and learning environments, so it’s difficult if not impossible to ban even the youngest ones.

The only way would be to live as a hermit… but I don’t see a solution.

If you ban social media, your children may be increasingly attracted to it and join it when they are away from you. Instead, take this opportunity to teach them how to take risks and behave respectfully, which will help them become better and more responsible people.

Help them:

  • block or report unknown people
  • accepting friend requests only from people they know
  • do not share personal information (phone, email, address, birth date, etc.) online
  • keep passwords and logins private and don’t even share them with friends
  • log out after using public computers