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Facebook has it's 10 year anniversary but what have they done?

Writing into the minds of children
Writing into the minds of children
Photo by Kimberly White

Tuesday, February, 4, 2014, Facebook turned 10 years old. Today we see users making look back videos and Facebook is once again up for review. So we had a few questions. Just what has Facebook become and what has it contributed? How has the social media giant affected people in general?

On Feb. 4, 2004, in his Harvard dorm room, Mark Zuckerberg launched, a website where college students could post information about themselves, trade messages, and become virtual “friends” with one another. 'I assume I’ll eventually make something profitable,' Zuckerberg shrugged in a June 2004 interview with the Harvard student newspaper.

What do you need to know about Facebook and is it safe? The Facebook Service should transcend geographic and national boundaries and be available to everyone in the world. ~Facebook principle 10

7.5 million kids are using Facebook younger than the required age of 13 reports many consumer reports. Unfortunately age verification does not work according to Hemanshu Nigam, an internet security expert: 'Companies do age verification because they know they’re supposed to, but everybody knows it doesn't really work.' This is true for all websites, not just Facebook.

'Short of a parenting class or good old fashioned common sense, from the upbringing in a good home, a lot of parents don't realize the long term effects social media can have on their children both now and in the future.' ~The Review

For example, 'picture books' vs. 'the meme of today'. When younger children cruise through Facebook what are they learning? After all Memes are virtually anything that can be created by or placed in the mind: ideas, mental constructions, concepts, goals, methods for doing something, ways of organizing, ways of thinking about something, perspectives, or rules which we hold to be true. Memes are not a new thing they been used throughout history even in wars and politics. Today social media just affords a newer faster dispersal system for them and much more. Are people unknowingly brainwashing their children?

As parents we need to stop and think hard about what it means when kids go on Facebook whether they are 11 or 15 years old. What are the benefits to them? What are the risks? How might Facebook affect their futures?

Will they become mindless? 'Mindfulness is typically thought of in two ways. First, it involves the ability to focus attention completely and nonjudgmentally in immediate experience. Second, mindfulness involves embracing an attitude of openness, acceptance, curiosity, and novel thinking. Quite simply, being mindful allows us to fully experience whatever we are doing and gain the full benefits of what the experience has to offer.' ~Huffington Post

Facebook started out as a college application, today it is a great way to connect with family and friends. But Facebook also carries enormous risk especially to younger kids and teens. Kids are naturally curious, impulsive, lack good judgment and decision making skills. That next meme you post might just make them curious in the wrong direction because the executive function part of the brain that helps with decision making is not fully developed until an adult reaches the age of 25. It’s difficult for kids to think beyond today to their futures because they tend to be impulsive and take risks. After all they are kids and not miniature adults. As parents we need to guide our children throughout their teen years.

So we asked: what do they learn?

Many teens and adults openly admit to engaging in risky online behavior. In addition, 26 percent of children said they ignored their parents’ warnings on Internet safety. Should we expose our kids to unnecessary and potentially harmful risks?Anything posted online, whether it’s an image or a comment, stays in cyberspace forever.

Many adults and children think of friends lists as a badge of popularity and don’t always know in real life who these friends are. '70 percent of kids will accept friend requests regardless of whether they know the requester,' says Special Agent Wesley Tagtmeyer of the FBI.

So we did some research over the past few weeks to see just what some people would do. Over the course of a few weeks we have frequented over 200 groups and sites throughout Facebook. Some sites appeared to be groups to bring together communities while others were for dividing. Most requiring no age verification or real knowledge of who the person was joining. Most of the groups had no real definition or substance just entertainment value for a wanton of being the next local Jerry Springer act, but lacking the 'Jerry Springer Insight'. In fact Facebook has brought communities together as members were from all walks of life. However, among them are also predators on the prowl some lingering in silence some posing as victims. Facebook truly delivered the promise on connecting people. Ten years later someone has to ask what for?

Parent 'friending' is not enough, many parents think 'friending' their kids is enough to keep them safe and make sure they are behaving appropriately on Facebook. Some parents don't realize even their actions can affect their children. Parents an children may inadvertently post identifying information that may make them easy targets for online predators. Parents and children have updated their status on social networking sites to include their physical location.

A recent study revealed even parents have given out personal information online to someone they don’t know offline. This happens quite often as research shows people have lost touch with the good old face to face communication. So without environmental feedback some seem to have lost touch with reality.

Kids are indiscriminate about what they post should you be also? In a study of 4,400 parents, 21 percent of these parents found abusive or sexually explicit messages on their teen’s Facebook profile. According to Common Sense Media, 39 percent have posted something they later regretted. However, their profile is not the only thing they look at.

A young child may not understand the full implications of their actions and the effect their indiscretions may have on their futures. Many colleges, scholarship providers, and coaches are now looking at Facebook prior to admission, or acceptance. There are companies that help check on students and athletes such as UDilligence and Varsity Monitor that offer a 'reputation scoreboard.' An indiscretion from a young 'unthinking' child, adult or teen may lead to long term regret. After all it is 'your profile' with your face.

Some psychologists say that people are losing the ability to talk face to face because when they talk online there is a computer screen standing between the conversation obstructing the view of the sender and recipient. As a result people are unable to learn from behavior and facial cues about the affects of what they are sending in a comment, or image and there is a breakdown in the exchange of information.

'Recent research showed blanket statements understood in normal conversation were impossible to understand without the facial ques.' ~The Review

The screen doesn't tell them or show them when something hurts or may be offensive. It may be easier to talk behind a screen but what have we taught our children as their examples? James Steyer of Common Sense Media says, 'Some kids would rather ‘Facebook’ someone or send a text than talk, even if they’re in the same room.' We found that this is also true for adults.

What does that do for a person's ability to interact in a meaningful way, develop conversational skills or develop empathy? What does it do to society as a whole?

Some believe that Facebook is impacting children’s brain development. 'Facebook has had a huge impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of young people,' says Steyer of Common Sense Media. But while the sites are popular - and extremely profitable - a growing number of psychologists and neuroscientists believe they may be doing more harm than good. 'The average child spends more time today with media than they do in school or with their family.' With adults constantly on Facebook with their androids and Ipods what is the example they are following?

Larry Rosen, a psychologist, has found that 'teens who use Facebook more often show narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.' Is it also true for adults? Recently, we chose a person to see just what would happen when interacting face to face with one of these 'strong presence Facebook users'. For every good deed in interaction the 'subject' responded well at first but when realizing the exchange of information (communication) was unfamiliar or a forgotten form of exchange the subject only became more aggressive confirming not only the finding in children but also adults.

Kids that go on Facebook often end up spending hours looking at other kids comments and pictures and posting their own comments and pictures. Social networking has an addictive component and may be difficult to 'turn off,' especially for kids. This is partly because of the chemical release of dopa-mine in our brains that makes us feel better when we are social networking. 'An overabundance of dopa-mine — while it feels great, just as sugar does — creates a mental hyperactivity that reduces the capacity for deeper focus,' says David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute. A recent study at the University of Norway says that Facebook addiction is more likely to occur among younger users and can have a real impact on their lives. Wouldn't it be better for children to use their time for healthier, more productive activities? Wouldnt it be even better if parents set the example and raised the bar?

'Studies have found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades,' according to psychologist Larry Rosen. Social Networking is more fun than working hard on a social studies paper or a difficult math problem. We need to teach our kids the art of focusing on difficult work and not entertaining themselves on Facebook.

People compare themselves to their friends social networking profiles and may feel that they are not as popular, pretty, or cool. Many kids have witnessed cyber-bullying or harassment on Facebook. According to Pew research 88 percent of teens had seen some cruelty or meanness on Facebook. A dark side of Facebook is also seen in hate pages, when one Facebook hate page is taken down, another shows up. They exist as do many more that are not appropriate for children.

When people are not extremely careful about the information they are posting, they can become victims of identity theft. Cyber-criminals may take advantage of their naivety and look for identifying information that they post. Phishing scams attempting to steal your information may also be a problem for people such as the scam “hey, do you remember this photo?” The goal of cyber-criminals is to trick you into clicking on an infectious attachment or visit a malicious website so that they can get sensitive information such as passwords. Adults have trouble protecting themselves from these phishing scams, so how would children be able to stay out of harms way?

We as parents and adults all need to PROTECT, PREVENT, and PARENT online! Online Safety begins with you!

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