Marcum LLP
Thoughts of the Week

By Jeffrey M. Weiner, Chairman & CEO, Marcum LLP

 

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Do your kids need a "digital community"? I'm pretty sure mine don't, at least not the ones who are still in elementary school (Lilly 8, Kate 6, and Max 5). In fact, I don't want them to have one until they're old enough to understand the potential risks and the safe way to participate.

For all the hyper-awareness about online bullying, adolescent "sexting," identity theft, and worse, Facebook, in all its wisdom, decided that an app initiating kids under 13 into the world of social media would be a good thing. Facebook says that its new Messenger Kids app works as an extension of parents' accounts, which gives parents the ability to control who their kids chat with. Right. And what enterprising 10-year-old hasn't figured out a way to circumvent their parents?

Even if I were willing to concede that "friending" is an acceptable substitute for play dates with actual, flesh-and-bone friends - which I certainly am not – the idea of indoctrinating young children into the social media frenzy that is all but ruling the rest of the world makes no sense to me. The addictive nature of electronics, coupled with social media and its detrimental effects on normal human interaction, is already well documented. Why would I want my kids to get hooked during their developmental years? Who hasn't witnessed first hand families out to dinner, all of them glued to PDAs or tablets, not talking or interacting with each other?

Facebook came under fire this week from an advocacy group with the same thought.

Of course, it could be argued that since social media is an inevitable part of our lives as well as our kids' lives as teens and adults, it's better to chaperone them while they're learning the ropes and demonstrate responsible behavior, while they're still young enough to think their parents have all the answers. But Tracy and I would rather see ours in the playground than in front of a computer screen.

Even so, I'm really not disparaging social media. In fact, social media is a big priority for Marcum and figures prominently in our marketing and events programs as well as outlets for my weekly ramblings. Marcum actively distributes content through our social media accounts, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter -- which, by the way, I hope you are all following. And after all, here I am blogging. But as they say, timing is everything, and I personally feel that "under 13" is too soon for online friending. There's too much scary stuff going on out there that young kids simply do not yet have the maturity to recognize or handle properly.

By the way, Messenger Kids launched just as Facebook began experiencing a falloff in how much time existing users are spending on the site - by as much as 50 million hours a day (it sounds like a lot but actually equates to just 2 minutes per user - you do the math!). Coincidence?

And Facebook users are mostly adults, I would guess, since most self-respecting teens switched allegiance to Snapchat and Instagram (www.statista.com), where they are presumably far less likely to bump into their parents. Moreover, FB remains on a wild growth streak, with huge gains in total users, total revenue, and net profit. It's all in a day's work for Mark Zuckerberg.

I figure my grade school children have better things to do than help him drive his juggernaut. Until they age up, we'll make sure they keep playing with their (real) friends and developing their people skills, so that one day they will be well-adjusted adults who can make their own decisions about how to participate safely and productively in social media and anything else that catches their fancy.

Other notes:

Today is National Wear Red Day, an American Heart Association initiative to help raise awareness for women's heart disease. Marcum is "going red" today, as we do every year, as a fundraiser to support the cause. Follow our activity on social media using the hash tag: #MarcumWearRed.

This weekend is Super Bowl Sunday. Marcum has offices in Philadelphia and throughout New England, so it should be a pretty interesting day at work for us on Monday. May the best team win, and may the losing Marcum region be the good sports I know you are at heart.

Enjoy the game and the weekend, everybody!



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

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