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The Future Of Social Media Is Decided By Our Children

Gen-Z is blazing a new trail when it comes to socializing online

Photo by Jiří Wagner on Unsplash

You probably already noticed that Gen-Z aren’t too crazy about Facebook. Something about running into their parents and teachers online has them flocking to other platforms. According to a report by Pew Research, an increasing adult presence on the platform and an over-sharing of “drama” are major turnoffs for teens. Another issue is privacy, with some 60 percent of those surveyed keeping their profiles private.

So, if the future of social media isn’t Facebook, what is it likely to be? Platforms that allow for no one over the age of Mom and Pop may be a start. But there will also be a tendency towards greater privacy (more than one in four teens post with a fake name or photo to protect their identity), authenticity, and real engagement. The future of social media will be different, and it will be decided by our children.

Current social media usage among kids

I mentioned last week that a scary report revealed teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day staring at the screen, instead of hitting the books. 

Social media usage is getting out of control, with children between the ages of 8 and 12 doing the exact same thing for almost six hours a day.

If we can set limits and decrease this screen time, clearly that will help our children become more well-rounded (and healthy) individuals. But, we also have to be realistic and recognize that technology is the only world our kids have ever known. We need to find a way to reconcile with it, and that starts with ensuring they’re posting in safe and positive environments.

Social media has been linked to mental health issues, in that platforms like Snapchat and Instagram can stimulate feelings of inadequacy, negative body image and depression. But what other platforms are our kids spending so much time on, and what are their major concerns? Instead of imposing rules from above (that they’ll only break once they’re out of our sight), having a responsible conversation with our kids may be the way forward.

Where else are they spending their time?

Hearing your child dramatically state that they “can’t live without YouTube” may sound quite alarming. While 95 percent of teens between 13 and 20 use YouTube mainly to “have a good laugh” or seek “how-to” information, 50 percent of them say that it’s a must-have service. 

The good news for worried parents, however, is that YouTube was found not to have any negative effects on mental health, other than perhaps keeping your kids up at night.

Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook all follow YouTube as the next popular platforms, although, only between 9 and 15 percent of teen users say they can’t live without these platforms. When it comes to your kids’ idols, social media stars are becoming the new celebrity, with YouTubers and influencers racking up as much (or more) trust points than “mainstream” celebrities. A massive 70 percent of those surveyed said they would trust an online influencer when it came to buying a tech gadget, as compared to a meager 21 percent taking purchasing tips from mainstream celebs.

What is the future of social media?

Social media will survive and thrive only and always when it takes cues from its users, and that future will be shaped by our kids. Building on their preference for visual content and video consumption, platforms that allow them to express themselves through images and video like YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, will no doubt continue to thrive. However, both of the latter will need to clamp down on cyberbullying issues if they don’t want to be shunned in favor of newer, more positive platforms.

Privacy is a continued issue that crops up with our children, and adults should be concerned about it as well. 

You may want to snoop on what your kid posts online, but you don’t want others to be able to do so, without permission – allowing users to set boundaries and post only to those people that they really want to share certain moments and updates with. This, in turn, leaves them to be free to be their authentic self, without the need to use a dummy name or fake photo to hide behind.

We’re also likely to see a more mainstream adoption of social media influencers in our everyday lives. Almost two thirds of all teens felt it was acceptable for these people to speak about politics, and 79 percent said it was okay for celebrities to discuss brands they use. So, get prepared for the future of advertising and entertainment to look quite different as well, as YouTube stars start taking center stage and slots at the superbowl. 

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