How Exposure to Social Media is Unhealthy for Children

Social media is an inevitable part of the lives of the younger generation. It is difficult to keep them away from social media, but by understanding the negative impacts it can have on children, you may be able to mitigate the risks. There are certain positive impacts of social media like the availability of educational information, creative ways of learning, access to vast information, and the ability to easily connect with friends far and wide. By re-enforcing these positive effects of social media, you may be able to reduce the unhealthy impacts of social media on your children.

Indulging in Comparisons
Social media is flooded with photos of people enjoying themselves whether on a holiday, in a party, hanging out with friends etc. This is often perceived by smaller children as an envious lifestyle. If they see a friend with a cute toy, they also want it. If they see friends partying, they want to be a part of that party. Else they feel left out and may feel sad about being uninvited.

Not being able to do as their friends are doing, would only lead to temper tantrums, emotional over-reaction and in some cases, stress for the child and parents.

Family Time Starts to Shrink
There are several social media platforms to keep your child occupied. As a result, they may not feel the need to talk to the parents or spend time with family. It reduces the importance of spending time together as a family and may even distance the children from parents.

Susceptible to Online Harassment and Bullying
Children are more vulnerable when it comes to online harassment and bullying. Many of them would try to deal with it themselves. As a result, they may suffer from anxiety and stress. If parents are unable to intervene at the right time them, cyber-bullies are known to have an extreme impact on the mental and emotional states of children.

Poor Academic Achievements
With more time spent on social media and less time spent learning, it is not surprising for academic results to be impacted. Children may lose interest in academic work and may even find it difficult to concentrate on their school work if they are continually distracted by  social media notifications on their phone.

Coerced Into Unrealistic Goals
It is highly likely that children feel the urge to look as pretty as social media models, and want to achieve a certain body weight or may want to look as muscular as their friends. They feel pressurized to see themselves through an unrealistic lens where they should have perfectly contoured bodies, beautiful faces, perfect hair and the best clothes. These unrealistic goals can force them into diets and unrealistic workout regimes.

Adopting Risky Behaviour
Lastly, children often pick up risky behaviors online. Photos of how cool someone looks, a friend smoking or how cool it seems when people are drinking or using substances, attract children. Uninformed of the disadvantages of these behaviors, children quickly pick up unwanted habits which lead to physical and psychological issues requiring treatment.

How do we address this problem?
Like we said, you cannot take social media away from your children. It is a part of their generation and they will require social media as they grow up. As parents, you can constantly reach out to them to educate them of the importance of family time and connection which creates happy memories. Some tips on the use of screens and media:

  • Discuss and build a family “contract” on screen time and the use of social media. Do this together as a family and include points such as daily allowances of screen time, safety dos and don’ts, etc.
  • Encourage screen or social media use in family areas of the house and not alone in bedrooms.
  • Encourage switching off all screens at least an hour before bedtime to aid good sleep.

This will help you in many ways.

  • Your children will be able to open up to you if they are being cyber-bullied
  • You can discuss their social media experiences
  • You will be able to discuss the impracticalities of certain posts
  • You can make social media have a positive impact on them by helping them find platforms that encourage their passions and support their creativity like photography, art, gardening, or any other hobby. It will help them build a positive network of friends.

Get in touch to see how we can help you.

Sep 2019

By FFCI