Tech-Savvy Toddlers

Posted by Madeline Lumley

We’ve all heard it before: The younger generations are able to learn how to use new technologies and social media quickly. I mean –pick up a new smart phone or sign up for a new social media site and understand how it works in five minutes– quickly. I see some truth in this stereotype, and lately, I’ve noticed this ability to adapt becoming more prevalent in people even younger than myself.

But how young is too young?

It seems like kids are getting cell phones or signing up for Facebook and Twitter at younger ages than ever before.  My 6-year-old cousin, for example, received an iPod Touch for Christmas. She then found and downloaded a texting app without any help, and has been texting my family members and me ever since. Granted, the messages aren’t grammatically correct and include an average of 30 emoticons, but that isn’t the point. While this is only one case, I know my cousin is not the only first grader to do this. She texts multiple other little girls from her class who either have cell phones, or use the same texting app she does. I never expected I would have to tell the little kids I’m babysitting to stop texting, turn off their phones and go to bed.

Photo by Luis Argerich, Licensed Under Creative Commons

What about social media?

The terms of agreement listed on Facebook state that you must be at least 13 years of age to create an account. Although it wouldn’t be difficult for the youngsters to lie about their birthdays while signing up (and I’ve seen my fair share of middle school kids with accounts), I wouldn’t recommend it. Because of this rule, you might think those tech-savvy tots are out of luck. However, it turns out they now have a social media site of their own. It’s called Togetherville, and children ten years old and under can sign up and create a page for themselves.

According to the website, “Togetherville mimics adult social networks in a kid-appropriate way,” and promises to be a safe place for kids to play games, post pictures, keep in touch with friends and other fun activities.

What do you think about social media for kids? Do you think it is a good thing for them to be on the internet at such a young age, or do you think there could be negative consequences?

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10 responses to “Tech-Savvy Toddlers

  1. This is a tough question. Is it responsible parenting to deprive our children the opportunity to build social media skills that could benefit them later in life? Or should we be cautious and trust that they will catch up later?

    This is not a new problem as there are similarities to television. I think we can agree that children who grew up with constraints on television have an advantage.

    I guess this is another situation where moderation is the best approach.

  2. Tim, I agree that moderation would be a good idea. I can see advantages and disadvantages to encouraging the use of social media and texting by children. I think it would be important for parents to teach their kids how to use the sites responsibly and safely, but then the issue that they may be too young to fully understand rises. With texting, I can see why some parents might want their child to have a phone early on for safety reasons. However, if they’re so young that they learn “text speak” before learning correct grammar in school, that could cause issues later in life as well.

  3. This is pretty interesting. I know my parents were not keen on me getting on the internet without them monitoring the site I was on. I remember sites like ‘Club Penguin’ and numerous others, but never ones that mimic a social networking site like Facebook. I just clicked on ‘Togetherville’s’ webpage and it said the site would be discontinued as of March 11. I would be curious to see the reason why. It goes perfectly with your question, are these kids to young to be on the internet?

  4. I know exactly what you’re talking about! I was babysitting my 5 year old cousin over break and she would not stop facetiming! It was the weirdest thing and I think that they are definitely too young to have social media sites. There is no guarantee of protection online and I don’t think they fully understand what that means.

  5. @megberb: I didn’t realize they were discontinuing Togetherville, and I’m interested to know why as well. Maybe not enough people knew about it, or maybe there was too much concern from parents?

    @Ashton: I think sometimes even high schoolers I see on social media sites are too young, or at least they act that way. If I had kids, I don’t think I would allow them to sign up for social media sites unless they could prove to me they were mature enough to handle it.

  6. All I have to say is that creeping on my middle school brother’s facebook friends makes my skin crawl. Pre-teen awkwardness should be limited to fast food restaurants and outside local movie theaters.

  7. My sister Sydney is 14 and still isn’t allowed to get a Facebook until she is in high school. My mom has always been really careful about that stuff. And, honestly, I tend to agree. While she is definitely social media savvy, Sydney does not really understand the consequences of posting some things online and neither do her friends. A lot of their profiles are more inappropriate than mine and they are still in middle school.

  8. Elizabeth Robinson

    I think it seems kind of ridiculous that such young kids are so exposed to technology and that it’s so accessible to them. Granted, times are obviously changing, but what happened to the days of playing blocks and Play-doh? A friend of mine told me that her 3-year-old sister knows how to use an iPad. I’ve never even used an iPad! I don’t understand why it’s necessary for kids to be using this sort of technology at such a young age. I understand that the use of technology, such as the iPad, is increasing and that earlier use of this sort of technology is becoming expected, but I think there needs to still be a time for kids to be kids, without all the distractions of modern technology.

  9. I agree with you, Elizabeth. Kids should be kids. They should be outside getting dirty and playing face to face, not through texting or online. I understand that technologies are more available now to the younger generations than when we were growing up, but I also believe it takes a certain maturity level to handle these tools. I also have noticed a certain lack of communication skills with kids who are in junior high and even high school today… I can’t help but think that technology may be playing a role…?

  10. Pingback: Social Media Safety | Media Editing

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