With the growing use of technology and social media, socialization for children has undergone major changes in the past 20 years. Instead of only meeting friends in person, talking on the home phone and passing notes during study hall, contemporary youths have several media options to communicate and build social skills. While the growing use of social technology certainly has its value, parents should be aware of the negative aspects and safety issues.
From the first mother-infant bonds to a preschooler's first true friends and beyond into the tumultuous pre-teen and teen years, a child's social development is s key part of building relationships and interacting with the world around her. By the toddler years, kids will play alongside other children, start gaining a sense of identity by age 3 and begin interacting with peers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. As your little one moves into the grade school stage, she will further her friendships, navigate more complex social circumstances such as conflicts and group dynamics and develop a basic understanding of how to relate to adults through the appropriate use of communication. During adolescence, your child will move into a much more mature level of social development, acting independently and beginning romantic partnerships.
Positive Social Media
The growing importance, and prevalence, of social media in the lives of kids and teens prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue a clinical report in 2011 titled, "The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families." According to the report, social media can actually benefit children in terms of socialization processes through opportunities for communication and connection to peers. Other positive uses for technology when it comes to social development include the use of these media outlets for group school projects, connecting to other kids for homework and learning help, meeting new friends with shared interests and helping the child extend herself into the larger community.
Cyberbulling and Online Safety
While technology certainly has positive uses when it comes to kids' socialization, parents must acquaint themselves with the negatives before allowing their children to go online. According to the child development experts at Kids Health, cyberbullying is a major issue for children online and includes using technology to threaten, embarrass or harass other people. Additionally, children might not have the social understanding yet to spot online predators or fend off peer pressure to engage in unsafe Internet behaviors such as sending or accepting photos and talking to strangers.
Just because your child isn't in front of her laptop doesn't mean she isn't using technology for social purposes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics 75 percent of teens own cell phones. If you don't hear your child talking to her BFF, don't think that she is entirely unsocial. Over half of U.S. teens use their phones for texting and one-quarter use them for social media. The growing use of cellular technology by kids makes it much easier for children and teens to communicate with friends, engage in social interactions and build their personal interaction skills.