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Almost everyone uses social media. For one reason or another, it allows us to do everything in one convenient platform. But, there can be some dire consequences to using this technology, especially in regard to children.
Here, we’ll explore how social media impacts children along with its influence psychologically, emotionally, and socially. Plus, there will be tips for adults on navigating this digital landscape.
Children & Social Media
Per the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll, children of all ages have increased their use of social media since 2021 by 17%. Almost 85% of teenagers between 13 and 17 years old have a profile on several platforms.
While social media offers a way for children to understand the world, it opens the door a little too wide. To illustrate, it’s wonderful they can learn how to create a battery with pennies, cardboard, and vinegar. But, they can also learn crass jokes or pick up bad language.
Virtual vs. Tangible Reality
Oftentimes, social media presents a reality that isn’t actually true. It’s a projection of ideas, concepts, lifestyle, and experiences unique to each individual who makes a post. Some of these are great for children while others are far too adult. For instance, learning about the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving is excellent for teenagers getting a license. However, if parents aren’t careful, their young children can be exposed to inappropriate ads and discussions.
Lowered Quality of Life
Exposure to conflicting concepts can contribute to children experiencing a lowered quality of life. Per research by UCL and the University of Essex, children as young as 10 years old using social media have a reduced sense of well-being by the time they’re teenagers. Severe anxiety, depression, and insomnia are just some things they can experience.
These mostly come from the dopamine hit they get whenever someone clicks “like” on their posts. This validation feedback loop has the same effect as using drugs like heroin or cocaine. The same study found these impact girls more than boys because girls crave validation and acceptance. While boys want this too, they are okay with being the “lone wolf.” Girls rarely tolerate loneliness and it makes them twice as likely to become a target for predators.
Other Mental/Emotional Effects
Some intense debates happen online in regard to political and social issues. It’s not uncommon for children to receive harsh and cruel bullying in reaction to a post they made or because they engaged with the wrong post. This can negatively affect their mental health and sense of self-esteem.
Knowing the people in real life can make things worse too. Over 59% of the high school students who said they experienced online bullying also said it affected their ability to learn and their sense of safety, per the Pew Research Center in 2018, .
Because of blatant exposure to the bad, ugly, and indifferent, it can heavily influence social and personal relationships. This can play out in many ways, but the scenarios below are frequent:
- Cruelty and teasing by other children will come shortly after an argument when their cyberbully is a neighbor or classmate. This can cause your child to withdraw from life, which increases the risk of self-harm.
- If you want your child to be an honest individual, social media will ruin those efforts. People online are rife with dishonesty and underhanded dealings. Because of the disconnect, cognitive dissonance will develop in unhealthy ways.
- If you want your child to have positive self-esteem, social media will crush it. For instance, pictures of perfect beauty doctored with image filters and software will force children to compare themselves to those images. Because they cannot live up to the ideal, it will negatively influence their self-worth.
Help & Support
Adults can do several things to provide support and help for children. It’s imperative to have an open-minded talk with your kids about the potential dangers they face on social media.
- Limit Screen Time: The best way to protect children is by limiting the amount of time they use social media.
- Abide Age Restrictions: Many platforms don’t allow anyone under 13 to use their service. Please follow these guidelines and ensure your children do as well.
- Parental Control: These tools offer a solution to combat social media addiction by enabling parents to set limits and monitor their child’s usage of social media platforms.
- Discuss the Benefits & Dangers: Before setting up the child’s social media profile, have a long talk about all the benefits and dangers. Observe their reactions, feelings and comments.
- Lead by Example: Conduct yourself in the same way you want your child to act and create a schedule for using technology. Don’t hang out on your smart device 24/7, especially during meals and family time.
Digital platforms are growing at an expedient rate. So, it’s imperative for adults to understand the implications of this technology and the potential dangers it can pose to children.
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