I have a pre-teen secondary school child. So basically an 11 or 12 year old.
I have been impressed at how he has embraced and integrated social media into his life over the last twelve months. I have been gratified by how it has helped him be more social at his new secondary school. I think children today, do the same things we did, in roughly the same order of discovery, but they do them earlier than we did, and they experience them in a different way than we did. Better, worse, who cares! Its their time to grow up; we had ours.
Within his year group at school, there are distinct sub-groups. The most obvious one is the gender breakdown. A bigger divide than existed in his last year at primary school. But that is most noticeable at the school itself. Multiple groups of a simple gender in his first year there, but interestingly less obvious as you move up the school into the teenage years themselves. Evidence perhaps that things are happening earlier than in decades before.
However, social media he found, is mitigating, rather than causing or exacerbating it. ‘Friending’ people on Facebook, is predominantly year group based, not restricted by his own school, but mainly limited to that, and the primary school he and others attended regardless of where children went to after that. State, academy or private, and interestingly not limited by the friends he had in his last years at primary school either. In fact, many that he chats to now online, be it on Facebook or sharing of pictures to Instagram via their almost obligatory smartphones or the ever more popular skyping, are those from his primary school that although in his year, were not his close friends, or necessarily the same gender.
Social media has actually opened up the playground so to speak. His online network of friends is quite large, much larger and more diverse than was on offer to him in the playground, with its more rigid grouping and largely sports based common interests. Even if not close friends, via social media he can view and comment on activities and interests of others in his year, that without it, he would not in many cases be aware of at all. He can and does, share his own interests via photo uploading, joke telling and ‘liking’ preferences.
Feedback, ( I consider myself lucky to still get that), has been overwhelmingly positive and extremely interactions been very tolerant, of his and other peoples views. Of course, they have broad common interests, school, dislike of homework, liking of similar TV and cinema offerings. Skateboards, make-up, sleepovers and self image are popular. In a busy school day, where time between lessons can be short, it provides a window to network which is less time restricted and a perspective on things that he can readily relate to.
As a parent, social media for my preteen, has so far, been an overwhelming success.