In the vast world of the internet, one thing has become an important aspect in our lives: social media. Social networking and social media platforms are used by kids and teens as well as adults. There are some questions to be addressed: how social media affects the emotional development of a child and potential dangers of social media for youth.
We are constantly connected. Text-messaging, apps, social media, online games, websites or emails. Unfortunately this is why we become vulnerable to certain things. As adults, we know and improve ways to deal with dangers or negative effects of the internet but it’s a whole different story for young people. Despite the fact that most companies design their apps for the age 13 and above, it’s not easy to monitor how children engage with different platforms. This is especially hard simply because some apps are designed to keep young children engaged for longer for instance TikTok and Instagram).
According to Sedge Beswick, founder of SEEN Connects, knowing when a child is mature enough to have a social media account has to be up to the parents, but it’s worth remembering nearly all social sites now require users to be over 13 years old to gain access. As reassuring as it sounds, ıt’s not necessarily a rigorous task to overcome these so-called obstacles. Kids can simply remove this obstacle by claiming they are older than they are. Why are children prevented accessing underage content? Because of the most scary aspect of social media interaction today: Grooming. It’s one of the dangers of social media and most of the offences are on the big four platforms. There is also the cyberbullying issue because nowadays kids don’t just leave issues on the playground. They take it home and it gets intensified by the platforms.
Keeping kids and teens safe is hard enough in the physical world, let alone the cyberworld of social media, texting, online gaming, and online predators. Identity theft, cyberbullying and sexting are some of the online risks which can threaten young people in the cyberworld and have ramifications in real life.
How Children are affected by Being Active on Social Media
Although children get access to social media channels for educational purposes, it can still pose risks for them. Internet security cannot be maintained by putting a set of rules in place and overall bans. Neither the strict measures nor the “let them explore” attitude seems to be the answer here.
Almost all of us adults have access to applications such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Tiktok where there is useful content as well as the fact that one can come across harmful content easily. Kids use these applications and the fact that the time spent staring at a screen is getting longer and longer is worrying. Not only for eye sight but for behavioural and psychological reasons. In the previous paragraph, we mentioned how children today don't just leave issues on the playground but take it home. And when they get online with a wound-up psychology what they say and post on social media is intensified because there is some kind of interaction.
This is not a face-to-face interaction but it still has the power of winding the person up. Depending on the time spent on social media, the problem can grow worse. It opens doors for anxiety and can lead to depression. Online safety is not an easy task to achieve even with the tools provided by the social platforms themselves. Clearly there are numerous benefits of social media, children can connect with their peers and expand their worlds.
This being said, they need to know people might not be presenting themselves on the internet in a truthful way or accurately. We need to get children to understand that connecting with people might be interesting and fun but what we see on social media about a person’s life is only a limited percentage of that person’s entire life. Most of the time, you'll see the best or the happiest moments posted publicly. This can make kids feel like they’re missing out on something which can lead to sadness, even depression. Dr. Ameenuddin at Mayo Clinic recommends talking to children about their expectations and setting some ground rules.
These rules can be about the time they can spend on social media, personal information they share on social media networks, the apps offered by social media platforms or related online safety measures to help kids and teens.
The Risk of Cyber-Bullying
You must pay serious attention to how your child is affected by social media interaction. When you see your child becoming unhappy because of unhealthy comparisons or any other reason for that matter, or if you realise their social media time is cutting into their sleep or affecting their school work, you must consider intervening. It’s quite sad that online bullying is such a fashionable activity among children today, especially among teens.
Effects of bullying can be profound on young people’s mental health and those who are on the receiving end can be isolated. In the same way, if they witness bullying online, it’s equally important to speak up for the victim may not be able to. Research shows most kids today are being victims of cyberbullying. People tend to bully others online more when compared with actual life experiences. They tend to feel less responsible for what they have done and keep doing what they are doing as they do not get the response they would have received in real life. If one spends more time in front of the screen, one is more likely to be subject to online abuse. “One” being a child here.
Kids experiencing cybel-bullying sometimes cannot tell or ask for help which is another worrisome issue. Bullied kids may be aggressive if they do not tell adults what is going on.
Negative Effects on One’s Psyche
Children have a natural curiosity and the vastness of the internet allows them to see and explore sometimes harmful content. It’s pretty much inevitable that they will encounter negative content. It’s possible that kids pick role models from virtual lives online which is a dangerous combination especially if they pick a bad one. It’s the parent’s job to make sure children understand the difference between real and virtual worlds. It’s worrying to see some kids aspiring for unreal lifestyles, unreal happiness that supposedly can be reached by having riches and extreme luxury items.
Kids must be reminded that most of the things they see online are merely a part of truth, and they need to know what’s posted on social media platforms sometimes reflects a miniscule percentage of the facts. At the end of the day, trust and open communication are the major aspects of minimising the negative effects caused by social media.
Abuse of social media channels brings the risk of emotional distress, anxiety and depression. Eating and sleep disorders and attention deficit disorder are a few of the problems that can be experienced due to social media abuse. Traumatic stress is reported when children are exposed to violent or explicit content. Monitoring your child’s activities on social media is crucial as it has a direct impact on the emotional state and behavioural patterns of your loved one.
What should Parents Do?
A child's adult life is built on the ground where the interaction between the parents and the child took place. Your role as a parent can be determined according to many different parenting styles. However, the most important issue here is the communication between the adult and the child. Some of the things to do are paying close attention to the child’s mood and talking to him or her about what’s happening. Setting some ground rules is always a good idea, not to exercise authoritarian behaviour on young people but to make sure they are protected from the dangers of social media and the dangers of the internet in that respect.
There is protective software worth installing such as Qustodio or Kidlogger but the fact remains that it’s the parent’s job to safeguard the child. Whether you are a strict-rules parent or a libertarian-approach one, the trick is open communication and having some set of ground rules. Please remember your online behaviour can go a long way towards helping your children. That way you will set a good example for using social media safely.
Positive parenting is a style where the child is explained what is asked of him within a loving, caring and respectful environment. It’s possible to be better parents and raise better people simply by acting like the loving and caring parent you are and by being respectfully, sincerely real. If you’re wondering about positive parenting more and would like to get some real insight, please contact Speaker Agency to introduce you to the right speakers. Linda Liukas has the insight to share as well as her experiences. Please contact us to seek the guidance you need.
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