LUBBOCK, Texas– The boom of social media usage has sparked national attention and left many parents wondering how to navigate social platforms with their children.
Some parents have embraced social media platforms and see them as parts of society that can open segue into important conversations between parents and their kids. Lubbock mom Amber Kelley said she uses social media to connect and communicate with her children.
“Oftentimes I’ll see and hear things on social media and it becomes great talking points for the kids,” Kelley said. “Some of the TikTok challenges we’ve heard of, I’ll use that to strike up a conversation.”
Texas Tech Professor Eric Rasmussen has been researching the impact social media has on kids. Rasmussen said social media is neither bad nor good, but it’s how it’s viewed and interacted with that’s important to understand.
“As humans, we are social beings, and we need that connection with other people. When we connect with other people only online,” Rasmussen said. “That does something to us, as humans, we don’t get the connection that we need. We need real life face to face, person to person, connection with other people.”
The invasive nature and vast reach of social media has also left some parents skeptical about its influence on culture, and how it may impede social development skills. Lubbock mom Shelby Brown said she believes parents need to proceed with caution.
“So I have to have conversations with my son like that because an innocent, something that you think is innocent can open a whole new world for somebody else,” Brown said. “Because he decided to tell me that the Internet has changed and it’s a lot safer now.”
Brown is mother of an 11-year-old, and said it’s far from easy to always know how to navigate social media and impart to her son all the do’s and don’ts of the internet. Brown is not alone.
Professor Rasmussen’s research explores the long-term impact social media has on social development skills in the next generation. He said parents play a bigger role than they may realize on how their kids interact virtually.
“So this generation of parents is the first generation in the history of the world that has had to parent in an environment like this,” Rasmussen said. “But the single biggest influence on kids is parents.”
Kids look towards their parents to model behaviors that they will later begin to imitate.
“So the very first thing that we can do if we want to help our kids navigate the social media maze, and a healthy way is to do so ourselves,” Rasmussen said. “To set an example for our kids of how much time to spend on it and what to be doing on social media. Kids are really good at modeling and following the example of their parents.”