The impact of social media on children is quite the hot topic these days! There is a lot of talk about what impact social media has on a child’s language development and many arguments support both sides. Some people believe that social media better helps develop a child’s language functioning, while others report that it does more harm than good.
In my opinion, the use of social media, either via the internet or text messaging, will not cause a regression in social and communication skills. In fact, I think that there are ways in which social media can actually aid in the development of these skills. Can such modes of communication actually help foster language development? I do not know; however, it is my belief that such interaction cannot harm a child’s language development.
Let’s start by answering the question, “What is communication?” or rather “What is the purpose of communication?” We use communication to exchange information or ideas with other people. Language, on the other hand, is the means by which we engage in communication. Language begins to develop early on in life through interactions with people and the environment. Children learn and practice their communication skills with their family and peers; however, they also learn and practice their skills when utilizing different forms of social media. Computers and cell phones are inherently engaging to children. Once a child becomes motivated to complete a task, the child is able to engage in communication with peers. If children send instant messages, they still practice the reciprocity necessary to having a conversation. This form of communication can help a reserved or shy child develop confidence while simultaneously developing the rules necessary for social interaction.
On the flip side, communicating through social media does not allow children to recognize non-verbal cues that are often required to fully interpret a message. For example, sarcasm is often identified based on tone of voice. If one person can’t hear what the other person said or if he can’t see the other person’s facial expression, the message may be misinterpreted. Also, because texting and instant messaging do not require an immediate response, you may lose some of the reciprocity that is essential to having a conversation.
Use in Moderation
The use of social media in this day and age is inevitable. Although its use may be helpful to the development of communication and language, it’s crucial that children are NOT solely reliant on such means of communication. Therefore, it is important to monitor how much time your children use social media. They should not be spending all of their time doing something that may not help their language development. Children still need the opportunity to engage in personal interactions in order to develop socially.
Note from the Author: This blog is not based on research or statistics, but rather on my own observations, interpretation, and experience.