The role of the social web in changing not only how we view the world and the people around us, but also in changing society itself has been well-documented and debated. An interesting study by AXA to launch its Ambition Awards seems to add fuel to the fire of the debate, suggesting as it does that nearly nine out of ten of 11 year olds feel that social media has an important role to play in shaping their online brand. By the age of 18, most people deem it as ‘very important’.
As both someone working in social communications and as a father, I find this astounding. The closest thing I got to personal branding at aged 11 was what football team I supported and what sweets I bought with my pocket money. And yet, according to AXA’s study, 18% of this age group use a professional photo as their profile picture, with friending people they don’t know, exaggerating social activities and personal details, and de-tagging unflattering photos all a part of everyday social media life to today’s pre-teens.
When combined with the ever-increasing speed and demands of technological development, there is understandable concern about how our children will grow up. Will their literacy levels be sub-standard due to txt speak and short-format electronic media? Will their real-life social skills be under-developed due to their reliance on Facebook, mobile and instant messaging as a form of communication? Will their ability to determine the difference between well thought-out arguments validated by source data be compromised by skim-reading of sensationalist headlines?
In fact, there is evidence from the likes of South Korea that the decision-making ability of today’s wired youngsters will be far superior to our own and that, actually, their communication skills will be more ‘efficient’. The area that concerns me most as a father is not falling IQs as a result of a reliance on collective intelligence, or online vanity (we all do it, right?), it’s the quality issue.
Social platforms and mobile devices are built around short and sweet snippets of shared information that do not and simply cannot convey context. It’s easy to take a tweet the wrong way, to judge a person’s Facebook update without knowing their mood, to take a blog headline/intro as gospel without reading a full post or checking source data. And over time, surely that will cheapen the very platforms on which these communications take place? Added to this, the very nature of today’s always-on, fast-moving, transient media must surely have an effect on our kids ability to stick at something and their drive to achieve set goals. AXA’s study would also seem to bear this out.
But that’s just my opinion. Are you a mother or a father? How do you feel about the impact that the social web and technology is having on your children? Please leave a comment…
Like This Post? Subscribe to TheSocialWeb