As a PR practitioner, I swim in the exciting, though sometimes tepid or even shark-infested waters of social media every day. As a mother of three children (Generation Z) including a 17-year-old, I’ve had serious concerns about the impact of social media on my kids. Today’s children are facing issues with which no previous generation has had to grapple. It’s amazing how my beautiful daughter Juliette has navigated these dangerous waters with grace and aplomb. I applaud her. Those waters would have killed me.
Social Media Impact on Kids
In two weeks, social media experts from the fields of psychology, social work, education and childhood development will gather in New York City to explore ways young people traverse this new, radically changed way of friendship. The symposium is called Just a Click Away! How Social Media Influences our Children’s Social Development.
The meeting will focus on key, practical issues including:
- How can parents and professionals support a healthy connection between social media and social development?
- What are outcomes of these experiences over time?
- What specific social media platforms are appropriate at each developmental stage?
The Symposium is organized by The Meeting House, a NYC-based nonprofit offering a unique program that helps children, either mainstream or with developmental issues, who need assistance in strengthening their social and emotional skills.
According to its founder and executive director Paula Resnick, there is extreme competition for academic placement in New York City. “Kids are competing for spots from nursery school up to post-doc work,” she says. “Lots of programs help them with academic skills, but where they are being left behind is with social and emotional learning. For many children, their future success with teamwork, relationships and future employers depends as much on these skills if not more than their academic records.”
Social media has definitely changed the equations for children not only in New York City, but beyond. It especially creates challenges for kids who find social interactions awkward.
“On the one hand, social media can help provide needed buffer time for more thoughtful responses as well as anonymity for children who are anxious or shy,” Resnick says. “But on the other hand, teasing can now go viral with devastating consequences.”
The Sharing Economy
Today’s children are growing up in a world that thought leaders like Seth Godin characterize as a “sharing economy.” Social media savvy for their generation may be as key to success as academic excellence and the right career path. But social media disasters will also have the potential to be as damaging as major political scandals. Young people desperately need to be guided through both the promises and perils of it all.
The symposium keynote speaker is Dr. Mega M. Subramaniam, an expert on tween social media use. She will be joined by fellow panelists: Orit Goldhamer, Middle School psychologist at The Churchill School; Carl Anhalt, Dean at Fieldston High School; and Janine Francolini, acclaimed Huffington Post social media blogger and founder of the child-focused Flawless Foundation. They will answer questions from parents around the country, and thanks to real-time interactions over Twitter, around the world.
Have you witnessed social media redefining childhood friendship? What’s your number one concern about all this?