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Introducing social media to children during the COVID-19 crisis

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The COVID-19 crisis has prompted many parents to rewrite the family rule book around social media.

Parents who vowed their children wouldn’t set a digital foot into the world of social media prior to junior high are allowing their children to dabble in virtual communication in an effort to keep them connected with their friends.

We reached out to Dr. Michael Rich, the director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, for a crash course in what parents should consider when they sign up their child for a social media account.

Laurel Gregory: We’ve heard from a lot of parents who are giving their children the green light to use social media at a much younger age than they planned. What advice would you give them?

Dr. Michael Rich: As you know, we don’t specifically endorse any product, but Facebook actually convened a group of child developmental experts, including me and one of my staffers, to help develop Messenger Kids — not Facebook messenger but Facebook Messenger Kids. While it is not perfect… one of the good things about it is it’s completely monitored by parents. The parents are able to not only observe all of the traffic that the kid is involved with, but needs to curate and actively choose their contacts. The idea behind this, from those of us who were consulting, is that the kids are jumping into social media anyway whether or not they are supposed to, and this is a way for the parent to help guide and mentor the child on using social media and messaging apps in responsible, safe and kind ways. It allows them to basically train them. So in a sense, it’s like sitting in the front seat of the car when your child learns how to drive.

It’s scary, you’re a little white-knuckled and worried about it, but you are essentially helping them apprentice in this new skill — at your side.


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I think that the real issue is: will parents put in the time to be with their child as they introduce this new technology to them — this new way of connecting with friends, which also includes helping them know when to use it and when to turn it off?

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READ MORE: Facebook rolls out Messenger app for kids in Canada — despite calls to shut it down

LG: So it’s about staying engaged as a parent and also using social media as a tool. It’s fine for my five-year-old son to be chatting with friends on Facetime?

Dr. R: Yeah, absolutely. I think that we’re at a stage in our social evolution, if you will, even before lockdown for COVID-19, where we have to acknowledge that kids are moving seamlessly between physical space and digital space. And in acknowledging that, we have to understand that just like we increase their freedom if they take responsibility in real life — like what parties they go to, who’s houses they go to, what they do — we should do exactly the same in the digital space.

I think that with very young children, it’s really important to observe them, both in terms of what they are doing and sort of how they are responding.


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Particularly when going to much more open spaces like Instagram and TikTok, kind of reserving the right to say, ‘You know, I don’t think this is the right space for you.’ TikTok can go to some very dark and scary places, and for that matter so can Instagram, and I’m not talking about real badness. I’m also talking about the way image-based social media kind of encourages narcissism, the selfie and the objectification of one’s self. Be aware that that may be going on for your child and be watchful for it and mindful of it. Discuss it with them and ask if they really want to go there.

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READ MORE: TikTok joins forces with WHO to promote coronavirus facts amid pandemic

LG: Can you recommend a specific platform for certain ages?

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Dr. R: The reality is whatever age number you choose, it’s not going to be the same for every child. Even siblings in the same family! There are some 10-year-olds who are fine in virtually any social media context because they know how to respect themselves and each other enough to use them well. And there are 20-year-olds who aren’t. So I think the key is not to follow some sort of magical algorithm — one size fits all — but more to say: work with your child. Obviously Facebook Messenger Kids is a good middle ground to help them try things out in a mentored environment with parent involvement. When you get into other things, sit right next to the child, watch them go through it. Have them teach you how to do it, because frankly, kids know better how to navigate TikTok than parents do. They are technically adept but don’t have executive function to stay healthy and safe and be respectful and mindful of each other.

The real issue here is us learning to parent in the digital space. Us learning to bring our same values to bear on it. I would even say I have moved away from using terms like developmentally appropriate because appropriate is a values-laden term. Let’s think about developmentally optimal. What is optimal not just for all children but for this child at this point in his or her life. What needs does she or he have for these tools? And is he or she ready to take on responsibility to themselves, their friends and society to function in this space? Can they function in this space independently, or do they need a learner’s permit? Do they need to be using… a more curated and mentored environment?

An in-depth interview with Dr. Michael Rich will be published Monday, April 20 on the Family Matters podcast.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Twitter Launches New ‘Twitter Create’ Mini-Site to Highlight Monetization Opportunities for Creators

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Twitter Launches New 'Twitter Create' Mini-Site to Highlight Monetization Opportunities for Creators

Creators are the new currency for social media networks, with every platform now working to sweeten its deal in order to keep the top creative talent posting to their apps, and keep their fans coming back to check in on the latest.

And today, Twitter’s taking its latest step in working to boost its creator appeal, with the launch of a new Twitter Create mini-site, which will host a range of tips, insights and examples designed to help creators maximize their Twitter presence.

The new site, which you can check out here, includes specific sections for creators in different verticals to help guide them on how to maximize their Twitter presence.

Tap on ‘Podcasters’, for example, and you’re taken to a dedicated page of tips for how to promote your show, including notes on which specific Twitter products you can utilize.

Twitter Create

Obviously, given the focus on monetization, Twitter’s newer offerings, like Super Follows and Spaces are the main push, with each providing new ways to make money from what you do in the app.

Scroll down further in any topic stream and you’ll find case studies, notes, and other blog posts that can help to guide you in the right direction.

Twitter Create

The site provides a good overview of Twitter’s various monetization avenues, in nine different categories, while there’s also a range of blog posts and notes that can help to guide your tweet approach.

Twitter’s monetization tools, thus far, haven’t really caught on, with Twitter Blue not yet becoming a key contributor to the platform’s revenue, and other offerings also, based on Twitter’s most recent performance update, failing to drive any significant income for the company.

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But they do offer opportunity, and there are some users that are indeed driving significant benefit from these additions. The trick for Twitter now is to help creators maximize take-up, and build their own offerings to better incentivize people to pay for content, which is not a habitual behavior in the app.

That’s been a key challenge for its creator monetization tools thus far – people have always been able to read your tweets for free, why would they start paying for the privilege now? That hesitation seems to be a key tipping point that Twitter needs to overcome, and up till now, it’s been reliant on the creators themselves to come up with more compelling subscription offerings, in order to add value to their platform presence.

This new platform aims to provide more specific guidance on this element, which could make it a valuable resource for those considering their add-on options to incentivize subscribers, while newer additions like Super Follower Only Spaces provide more, simple add-on tools that can push creators in the right direction as to how they can enhance their Twitter presence for a paying audience.

Which is really what needs to happen. People aren’t going to pay for your tweets, no matter how witty you may think you are, but they will pay for exclusives and additional engagement offerings that can make them more aligned to your presence.

Up till now, Twitter hasn’t been great at articulating this, hence the low take-up of these tools. But this new platform provides more direct guidance, which could provide a boost for its monetization tools.

You can check out the new Twitter Create mini-site here.

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