Social media's impact on kids 'merits big debate'

Facebook's big stock offering on Wall Street must be followed by an intensive debate on Main Street about social media's powerful impact on children, an expert on the topic says.

Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco think tank focusing on media and families, said the technology that Facebook represents is having "an enormous impact" on youngsters, families and schools worldwide.

"We need to have a big national, if not global conversation about the pros and cons of that," Steyer, a father of four who is also a civil rights lawyer and Stanford University professor, told AFP in an interview.

While social media such as Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter offer "extraordinary possibilities" in such areas as education, he said, "there are also real downsides in a social, emotional and cogitative development way."

"Hopefully, after the flurry of the IPO and after the valuation of Facebook is done, then we can have a very serious ongoing discussion of what this means," he said.

Steyer was in Washington to promote his just-published book "Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age," which argues for greater parental involvement in their children's online lives.

"Whether we like it or not, kids are now spending far more time with media and technology than they are with their families or in school," -- as much as eight hours a day on average in the United States alone, he wrote.

Children face the triple peril of what Steyer calls RAP -- relationship issues, attention and addiction problems, and privacy issues -- as well as cyberbullying, online pornography and, for girls, body image fears.

Steyer is particularly critical of Silicon Valley tycoons -- he knows many on a first-name basis -- who, unbridled by government regulation, insist that privacy no longer matters in an increasingly interconnected world.

"This extraordinary revolution in digital media has been driven by young (software) engineers, many of whom are not parents, many of whom are somewhat socially awkward and many of whom have not really thought through the social and emotional consequences" of their products, he said.

"There is an arms race for data, and to build things as fast as possible ... but that's not a great strategy when you're talking about kids," he said, accusing tech outfits for "not respecting the concept of privacy."

Earlier this week, a Consumer Reports survey found nearly 13 million US Facebook users -- out of 157 million, and 900 million worldwide -- do not use, or are not aware of, the site's privacy controls.

Girls are especially vulnerable, Steyer said, with studies indicating that many body-conscious teens are photoshopping images of themselves so as to look thinner and score more "likes" among their friends.

By way of advice to parents, he recommended "personal technology time-outs" and banning smartphones at the dinner table. "Meal time should not be tech time," he said.

Children must also be taught to reflect before hitting the "send" button on something they might later regret, refrain from anonymous comments, and not to believe everything they read or see online.

On a governmental level, Steyer suggested the United States follow Europe's lead in privacy regulation and introduce an "eraser button" enabling users to wipe off anything they might have posted in the past.

"We need clear and simple rules (around privacy) for the tech companies, too, because right now they've dominated the debate and they've set the rules themselves," he said.

But the immediate responsibility, he said, falls on moms and dads.

"It's part of parenting 2.0 today, so you have to do your homework," he said.

"You have to actually learn the rules of the road... and then you have to set clear and simple limits for kids, set clear rules of behavior -- and you have to be a role model.

"If you're constantly addicted to your cellphone or your 'CrackBerry' then that's not sending a very good message to your kids."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Super typhoon weakens after entering Philippines

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A super typhoon blamed for the deaths of at least four people on islands in the western Pacific Ocean has weakened after entering Philippine waters and is expected to further lose strength as it approaches the country's northeastern coast. …

  • Micronesians appeal for help after devastating typhoon
    Micronesians appeal for help after devastating typhoon

    Residents in storm wrecked areas of Micronesia appealed for help Thursday as a clean-up began on the worst affected islands after Super Typhoon Maysak swept through the region on its way towards the Philippines. "We can do with all the help we can get," Courtney Stinnett at the Truk Stop Hotel dive shop on the main island of Weno in Chuuk state told AFP. A state of emergency has been declared in Chuuk, the largest region in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) where five people were …

  • From Space, Typhoon Maysak's Eye Looks Like a Black Hole (Photo)
    From Space, Typhoon Maysak's Eye Looks Like a Black Hole (Photo)

    It seemed like a black hole from a Sci-Fi movie," NASA astronaut Terry Virts wrote on Twitter. Virts and his fellow astronauts have been posting pictures of the typhoon, which is expected to hit the Philippines this weekend if it doesn't change course. "Commands respect even from space," wrote Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency who launched into space with Virts in November. As of 11 a.m. EdT today (1500 GMT), the super typhoon was 223 miles (359 km) …

  • Muslim group calls for universal peace
    Muslim group calls for universal peace

    As predominantly Catholic Philippines and the rest of the Christian world observe the Holy Week, peace advocates like the Young Muslim Professionals Network (YMPN) are appealing to Filipinos of various creeds and persuasion to embrace the universal message of kindness, love and peace. The group issued the call as peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front teeter due to the Mamasapano incident where members of the rebel group killed 44 police commandos on a …

  • Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage
    Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage

    A former World Bank official has warned of dire consequences for the Philippines if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed into law. Nigel Roberts, former director on conflict, security and development, said that more conflict could occur without the BBL. “It takes about 15 years to get back to pre-conflict GDP growth rates, and 20 years for trade to recover,” Roberts said in his blog at the World Bank website. The World Bank estimated that economic losses amounted to $10 …

  • Despite typhoon, summer is here
    Despite typhoon, summer is here

    Super Typhoon Chedeng roared toward Luzon as the weather bureau announced the official start of summer in the country yesterday. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) announced yesterday the official start of the dry or summer season in the country due to the termination of the cold northeast monsoon. “The general public is advised to take precautionary measures to minimize heat stress and take note of the need in optimizing the daily use of …

  • Noy told: Just answer the questions
    Noy told: Just answer the questions

    Just answer the 20 questions. The Makabayan bloc of seven party-list representatives made this appeal to President Aquino yesterday after his spokesman claimed the Chief Executive has already answered most of the questions posed by the militant lawmakers regarding the Mamasapano incident. For instance, he said the President has not yet explained why he allowed then suspended Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to take the lead in Oplan Exodus or the mission to …

  • DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah
    DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah

    Malaysia does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained yesterday that the Malaysian government is paying rent for Sabah, indicating it rightfully belongs to the Philippines. The Malay Mail Online reported that Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia has not and does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah when asked by media about the reported offer of the Philippine government to downgrade its Sabah …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options