A widely shared NY Times story that ran this week was published in response to CNN’s Being13, which highlighted how young teens are impacted by social media. Called “Seven Ways Parents Can Help 13-Year-Olds Start Their Social Media Lives Right,” the article included advice from Marion Underwood, dean of graduate studies in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas and a co-author of the Being 13 report.
Among her suggestions, Dr. Underwood encouraged parents to have their kids start with Instagram instead of Facebook. Calling the photo-sharing site a benign, simpler service, she said most users abide by the site’s unwritten etiquette.
But do others agree with her assessment? Not so much. Rachel Simmons, author, educator and co-founder of Girls Leadership says that Instagram’s simple/sleek design can be deceiving. In an article for Time magazine, Simmons says, “Look more closely, and you find the Rosetta Stone of girl angst: a way for tweens and teens to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I included in that picture?), even how many people like them (if you post and get too few likes, you might feel “Instashame,” as one young woman calls it).”
Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist and creator of Digital Nutrition, a framework for developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your technological world, says that trying to figure out which platform offers the best entry point into the world of social media is futile at best: “Attempting to categorise social media sites into good or bad or better and worse is simplistic and ignores the nuances of digital youth cultures and how the sites can get used by different groups for different purposes. If the intention of someone is to be mean/nasty/rude etc, the platform they choose is irrelevant to that intention.”