Let’s talk algorithms! They play a huge part in why your kids do what they do with their social media. They honestly affect anyone that is using social media. Algorithms are the invisible forces that power our digital lives. They are the mathematical equations determining what content we see on social media platforms and search engines. As a result, algorithms significantly impact our lives, including the lives of children growing up in a world where social media is ubiquitous.
The algorithms that power social media platforms are designed to keep users engaged. They do this by showing users content, most likely to keep them on the platform for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this means that the content that children see on social media may not always be the most accurate or reliable. Instead, it is content that has been optimized for engagement.
One of the ways that algorithms determine what content to show users is by tracking their behavior on the platform. This includes the posts they like, the accounts they follow, and the comments they leave. Algorithms use this information to create a profile of each user, which is then used to show them content likely to interest them.
While this may seem harmless, it can have negative consequences for children. For example, if a child spends a lot of time on social media looking at posts about beauty standards, the algorithm may show them even more content related to this topic. This can create a feedback loop reinforcing negative body image and self-esteem issues.
Algorithms also have the power to create filter bubbles, environments where users only see content that confirms their beliefs. This can be especially harmful to children, who are still developing their worldview. If they are only exposed to content that supports their existing ideas, they may struggle to see other perspectives and become more closed-minded.
Another way algorithms can negatively impact children is by exposing them to harmful or inappropriate content. Social media platforms have come under fire in recent years for spreading harmful content, such as hate speech and misinformation. Children are particularly vulnerable to this type of content, as they may not have the critical thinking skills to discern what is true and what is not.
Algorithms can also contribute to spreading misinformation by promoting sensational and controversial content over more factual and accurate information. This can be especially harmful regarding issues like health and science, where accurate information is crucial for making informed decisions.
So, what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts of algorithms on children? One solution is for social media platforms to be more transparent about how their algorithms work, allowing parents and educators to understand better the content children are being exposed to and take steps to mitigate any adverse effects.
Another solution is for parents to be more involved in their children’s social media use, including monitoring the content children are exposed to and engaging in conversations about the accuracy and reliability of online information.
Finally, educators need to teach critical thinking skills to children from a young age. Teach them how to evaluate sources of information and discern fact from fiction online.
In conclusion, algorithms are powerful tools that have the potential to shape the way children see the world. While they can have positive effects, such as exposing children to new ideas and perspectives, they can also have negative consequences, such as promoting harmful content and reinforcing negative beliefs. By being more transparent about how algorithms work, being more involved in children’s social media use, and teaching critical thinking skills, we can help mitigate the adverse effects of algorithms and create a safer and more positive online environment for children.
Kristi Bush serves as a national education consultant and social media safety advocate. She is a licensed social worker with greater than 15 years of clinical practice and health care experience. She attended Troy and Auburn University where she studied social work and counseling. Kristi travels nationally and has spoken with thousands of children, parents, professionals and organizations about the benefits and threats associated with social media. You may reach Kristi through her website at www.knbcommunications.com.