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Pros and cons of kids using social media

Can we balance the harm and the good that social networking sites present to our children? Or will they always produce more harm than good? Before parents got to examine the question, the kids were already deeply entrenched in social networking. So, a certain amount of this question has always been a moot point. The dangers have been a burning issue since the advent of social media.

The first site to begin social networking in its current form was SixDegrees.com, and launched in 1997. This was just a general online community, where people could list their profiles, leave messages and a list of interests. Then they would connect and go into chat rooms. Awwww! wasn't it such a cute baby? This was followed by Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, and then Bebo. In 2004, Facebook was opened for the college community. Once the linking of the networks occurred , Facebook was no longer geographically limited and has been experiencing the fastest growth of all the current networks.

Enter your kids stage left. They can use the social site to maintain contact with family and friends everywhere. And this happens with such light speed, that it not only covers the day-by-day, but the up-to-the-minute controversies. It was cheaper than the long distance package that their cell phone required, and you could get pictures, too! Phone providers had to scramble to catch up! The world became much smaller. Upon the connecting of the other platforms kids can swap links that share clothing, music, hair-do's, current events, concerts, and a plethora of objects to stimulate the senses.

Now I may be considered opportunistic, but this seems like a jewel encrusted tether to me. Does anyone else see this? The cell phone becomes their lifeline to the world. And social media is a parent's dream for the next best thing to being in the same room with your offspring. Now, I'm not advocating giving up your life to monitor theirs, but if there is a friend that may be questionable, social media makes them open to scrutiny. They often fail to realize how open the party-line is on their favorite branch of the media. Or you could possibly alleviate your concerns, and find that your child's friends are just teens after all, not the spawn of evil that you thought they were.

However, even though you may know more than before, you still have some of the same problems. Not being in on selecting the people who have the greatest input on the lives of our progeny can be disconcerting. That said, this could get to be quite an obsession. You may wind up spending more time doing damage control than is warranted. It then becomes the quandary; six of one - half a dozen of the other.

Although not intentionally set up as a house of smoke and mirrors, social media gives cover to some people that are less than honest about their identities. Everyone has the ability to falsify their appearance and other elements of their profiles. Is Cathy Lovelace in reality a 32 year-old man? Bogus profiles are sometimes the least of this writers worries. This form of media also takes the term "party-line" to the steroid level. One can never be too sure of who all is on the conversation or who else will be privy to it. Or you will never know how far it will go in the end.

All that being said, adequate education and information will have a positive effect. Because most times, even when you think your kids aren't listening, they are. Which takes us back to the psychobabble mantra, As a parent you must trust your teen (as always, a conditional surrender).

- Monica Black

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