The Negative Side to Social Media | Haak Blog

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What ever happened to that old girlfriend you had back in high school? Well, she wasn’t really your girlfriend. But under slightly different circumstances, she might have been. Enter Facebook. Who needs alumni when you’ve got social media to keep you in touch with all the people you once knew? And that’s not the only good thing that social media has to offer.

Often, important world news breaks on Twitter before it hits mainstream media outlets. In fact, at this point, it is fair to say that Twitter is a mainstream news outlet. When despotic leaders around the world want to do something unspeakable, they first have to shut off all avenues of social media. Even so, information still gets out. And we have social media to thank for it.

That said, social media has a dark side. It is not all about hookups and breaking news. The real power wielded by social media is influence. And the targets of that influence can be the most vulnerable among us. There is a generation of kids who live a significant portion of their lives on social media. That means they are subject to influences that reach well beyond family and community. This is a nightmare for parents. Fortunately, all is not lost.

Monitoring the Signals

In modern parlance, a signal is a source of data with enough reach to have influence on a person. There was a time when the number of signals that could reach your child were limited and predictable. Managing those signals was a semi-possible task. As a child grows older, the number of signals to which they have access increases.

In the modern age, children are exposed to a near infinite number of signals much earlier in life. Without a lot of guidance, they are ill-equipped to sort those signals. And you, as a parent, are ill-equipped to manage those signals without the proper technology.

Fortunately, the same technology that provides access to all those signals, also provides a means to monitor and manage them. With a smartphone and a child tracking app, you can monitor the signals from social media, and keep track of what influences are reaching your child. You can keep up with who they chat with, the type of language they use, the apps they download and how much time they spend using them, and where they go when they tell you they are at a friend’s house doing homework.

Advertising, Peer Pressure, and Exploitation

You can be sure of one thing: where there is attention, there is advertising. Worse yet, we now have the ability to track and target individuals across the web. Google has seen to that. So advertisers have direct access to your kids. And when I say your kids, I mean specifically Joey and Jamie: your kids. The advertisers know their names, addresses, the schools they attend, what they like to where, and where they like to go. As a parent, that should make you very uncomfortable. Remember Joe Camel? Now, advertisers can create something like Joe Camel tailored to your child’s individual tastes.

Peer Pressure might even be worse online than in person. Because in person, at least they can see through some of the lies. Online, everyone is cooler than you. They have the latest hairstyles, where designer clothes, and vape the smoothest e-cigarettes. Your kids get a false sense of normal. And that is always dangerous.

Finally, exploiters will always be lurking in places where there are innocent people to be exploited. They thrive whenever supervision is lax. Rather than reading dry statistics about Internet predators, watch this video and be very afraid.

Like television before it, the Internet is the gateway to a whole new amazing world. While television had a handful of signals, the Internet has as many signals as there are people. It is a barely filtered outlet to all that human nature has to offer. And it is plugged directly into your child’s bedroom.
You can’t stop the internet, nor should you try. But you can become educated about these new signals. Now, more than ever, what your child needs is active and informed parenting.


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