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Shayla Thiel Stern 300

Shayla Thiel-Stern is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

U of M social media expert says First Lady's comments on kids and Facebook start an important conversation

February 10, 2011

When First Lady Michelle Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer yesterday that Facebook is unnecessary not only for her children but for young kids in general, parents across the country perked up. What’s an appropriate age for youth to engage on social media sites? A University of Minnesota expert who can provide advice and insight is:  

Shayla Thiel-Stern, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, College of Liberal Arts

“Ultimately, I applaud the First Lady for knowing what the issues with Facebook and younger children are at all, and limiting their screen time,” Thiel-Stern says. “The Obama’s girls are not even teens, and Facebook technically has an age requirement of 13, so it’s good to know that Michelle Obama has clearly educated herself on kids’ use of social media. “In addition, the Obama girls obviously have concerns that other girls their age do not with regard to what they say and do in public -- and Facebook is public.”

Thiel-Stern says social media can be an intense experience for children and adolescents who generally do not have the emotional maturity to handle the immediacy and publicity. “They want to participate in sites like Facebook at a young age because it represents a space that's free from parents and teachers, and a space where they can negotiate their social lives and identities interactively with their peers. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but parents should be wary of letting their kids dive in before they’re emotionally ready and responsible enough to handle all of the ramifications of their participation."

Thiel-Stern’s research interests focus on the intersections of new media, youth and gender as well as critical and cultural aspects of online journalism. Her first book, “Instant Identity: Adolescent Girls and the World of Instant Messaging,” was published by Peter Lang Publishing in March 2007. In addition, she has conducted research on how the mass media represents “first daughters,” contrasting the Jenna Bush coverage to Chelsea Clinton coverage of the years while their fathers were in the White House.

To interview Thiel-Stern, contact Jeff Falk, University News Service, or (612) 626-1720.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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