Social media is definitely an everyday staple for most of us – it’s usually one of the first few apps we use when we get up in the mornings and start using our phones. Growing up in this current day and age, it may even be the only form of media our children actually pay attention to. Seeing as children are getting their personal mobiles at as early as the tender age of 5, how much do they rely on social media? And if its of a high importance for them, how much does it affect them and their growth?
Social media apps these days are constantly coming up with various forms of communication, which can tend to be dangerous because such apps can connect a user to practically anyone from any part of the world as long as they are using the same app. However, spending too much time on them can lead to addiction and other serious effects. Many children and teenagers have reported feeling uncomfortable and have difficulty relaxing when they are unable to use social media. The convenient availability of one’s personal information has also led to many cases of cyber-bullying, damaged reputations due to rumours, online stalking or being ignored by peers online. The lack of exposure to visual and emotional cues in natural communication can also lead to poorer communication.
When children start to become addicted to social media, they generally will start to associate their self-esteem and self-worth to the number of likes, views, positive comments, friends, followers, shares and mentions. This association leads them to compare themselves to online social media stars who appear to lead glamorous lives, and some might think less of their own lives, and liken popularity to mixing with crowds who consume alcohol and drugs, or being sexually active from a young age. This in turn may also lead to unhealthy sexual behaviour, self-harm, eating disorders and even depression.
As quoted from the print version of this article, Mr Praveen Nair, a psychologist and senior consultant at Raven Counselling and Consultancy, said his agency has seen a number of teens – mainly girls aged between 13 and 17 – who have experienced heightened anxiety and other negative emotional and cognitive issues as a result of overexposure to social media.
How can you prevent these negative effects of our children using too much social media? Here are 5 suggestions:
• Remove TV’s and computers from children’s bedrooms
• Set a good example by prioritising social and family time, and making time to play or talk with children
• Encourage outdoor play and social activities
• Set regular times for homework or practicing an instrument or skill every day at the same time to encourage the habit
• Talk to children about advertisements, product placements and sponsored images seen in social media that do not reflect reality
However, it’s impossible to take control of their every move and they will definitely have time to themselves where they can use social media, so it’s important to educate them to build confidence based on what they do instead of what they see on social media.