This is the 11th in a series of articles about how technology affects child growth and development.

Q: What are the characteristics, rules, and barriers of all social media?

A: On a website entitled Solari, there is an article (2014) addressing how social media has changed the rules of communication. First are the rules for social media that people need to understand in order to communicate effectively on the media. These are the following:

• To have a say.

• Meaningful dialogue.

• To be engaged and involved in the process.

• Personal interactions with others.

• To be listened to.

• To help shape what they find useful.

• To connect with others engaged in similar activities.

• Plain talk.

• Communication to be genuine and relevant.

• To conduct business with ethical companies who work transparently.

• To be in partnership.

According to Solari, all social media meet these rules and share a set of common characteristics. These are as follows:


Social media is a two-way conversation or a multidimensional interaction. Social media engages all who are involved.


Social media promotes contributions and reactions from all who are interested. Encouragement is the key concept. Social media seeks interactions by making contributions easy.


Social media facilitates exchanges of information between people and their audience and also among audience members. The media invites participation. Creating a simple collaborative platform means that information is organized and can be distributed easily.


Social media on the Internet is just a click away, and it thrives on making connections. The media links users to other resources, sites and people. People can create their own personalized websites.


The basic characteristic of social media is creating a community of relationships among those who share common goals, attitudes, or interests. Examples include professionalism, friendships, politics, and hobbies. Such communities emerge quickly and communicate effectively. Communities build and provide goodwill. People seldom meet in person but the virtual community is just as meaningful as physical communities.

In an article in the New York Times (April 30, 2010), reporter Hilary Stout addressed the issue of how technology is changing the properties of friendships. Technology eliminates intimacy and the emotional give and take of face-to-face interactions. Many researchers believe that exchanges on technology are more superficial and more public today.

Technology eliminates emotional nuances and social cues such as facial expressions and one’s body language. Some scientists and researchers believe the brain may become rewired so that human contact skills will become even weaker.

Online communication can help some preteens and teens to be more sociable via technology. But technology, if overused, can also produce such problems as “’Facebook Depression’” and social isolation.

In online Psychology Today (June 8, 2010), Alex Lickerman, M.D., offers some common sense rules for electronic communication. First, do not say things via email that you would not say in person. Next, do not put off messages you would prefer not to answer, but answer them in a timely fashion.

Relationships are impacted by online communications. It is easier to create misunderstandings online because of the absence of nonverbal communication. Finally, balance Internet time with that spent with family and friends.

A website entitled “skills you need” offers types of barriers to communication. First are language barriers. Messages with lots of jargon and abbreviations are often misunderstood by receivers. Regional expressions and colloquialisms may even be considered offensive.

Secondly, there are psychological barriers such as stress. A person really stressed may not pay full attention to electronic messages. Another psychological barrier is anger. Anger may cause people to say things they later regret or to misinterpret messages from others. Persons with low self-esteem can be less assertive and not comfortable when communicating. These persons are hesitant to say how they feel and may read negativity into messages they receive. Next, physiological barriers include hearing disabilities that keep people from grasping whole conversations.

Physical barriers include geographic distances between senders and receivers. There are more channels for communication over shorter distances and less technology is needed. Advantages and disadvantages of every communication channel should be understood and an appropriate channel selected.

Systematic barriers exist in organizations and structures in which there are inappropriate or inefficient communication channels and information systems. Another systemic barrier is the lack of understanding of the responsibilities and roles for communication. In these organizations, people may be unclear of their roles in communication and consequently unclear about what is expected from them.

Last are attitudinal barriers or perceptions that prevent people from communicating effectively. Attitudinal barriers can result from poor management, personality conflicts, lack of motivation, or resistance to change.

Next week’s article will discuss how parents and professionals can monitor the use of technology by children.

Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University.