By Melody Park
For the avid Vine users, we know about the very distinct humor it evokes. A lot of the most revined Vines are the ones with young subjects who lack any sliver of self-awareness (like the little girl with curly hair saying she farted or the little boy screaming the vulgar title of a certain Big Sean song).
One “famous” Viner is William11—although he looks more like five years old, he’s actually seven—who says in his Vines things like “I don’t pop molly. I drink powerade,” in reference to other Vines. Another Vine is of him holding several 100 dollar bills to his face saying “smells like swag.”
Somehow this Viner has garnered over 304,000 followers. His lack of self-awareness gives us secondhand embarrassment and a good laugh, but there’s a larger problem here.
Instead, what’s more important is that very young children are gaining easier access to social media, and we’re doing nothing to prevent it.
Many of us are guilty of not caring. We laugh, share the link to our friends, and don’t even feel concerned that this seven year-old boy doesn’t understand the idea that our online personas have impacts. He is making himself susceptible to not only humiliation and ridicule from people much older than him (like mean teenagers and adults), but also to early-instilled and improper views of an online world.
Current social media platforms lack the proper interface to ensure user safety and to screen the ages of individuals who sign up for accounts.
According to a study conducted by ampp3d from Mirror UK, 59% of the children surveyed began using social media by age 10.
With children gaining easier access to social media and creating their own accounts, they are exposed to content that can disrupt their proper mental development. Although most corporations have implemented age restrictions (Vine, for instance, requires users to be at least 17 years of age), these can easily be eluded.
As unfortunate as this may sound, much of Vine humor—and all comedy for that matter—centers around race and various incorrect and offensive stereotypes.
Many of the fiercely underage Viners don’t have the mind to understand that most Vines should not be taken seriously.
However, children at such young ages, especially those under 13, have underdeveloped brains and have not yet formulated their own opinions about the world. They have not been exposed to enough things to take confident stances on what they believe in.
If Vine user William11 really believes that money smells like swag, a very much inanimate concept meaning “cool,” then I hope this notion is corrected for him in the near future.
Thus, while most people who scroll through social media are old enough to understand jokes, young children, generally, will not. This problem can erupt to a harsher extent in the near future, as social media becomes more prevalent each day, infiltrating more aspects of our lives.
Clearly, age restriction pop-ups before downloading an app or before creating an account are ineffective. It is our generation that has to handle this issue. We have to close the gap between how we react to children’s oblivion online and how we should react.
Unless we stop falsely encouraging these children, it is not hard to believe that the gap will continue to widen.