Social media has undoubtedly become a key part of our everyday lives and has seen significant usage increases since the pandemic. Data shows that the number of global social media users increased by 11% from 2019 to 2021. As these platforms continue to dominate our attention, many parents are concerned about how they are affecting their children. As such, Net Influencer will discuss how parents can better protect their children from the key risks seen on social media.
What Are the Dangers of Social Media?
Despite its prevalence in modern society, social media certainly has its downsides. One of the major risks of children using social media is cyberbullying, which surrounds harmful acts of discrimination that are carried out online. These acts can be carried out by their peers, such as other school children but also by strangers via comments or DMs. As a result, children are at risk of interacting with deviant individuals as they continue to post content on a variety of platforms.
Another risk is the occurrence of online predators, who can coerce your children into sharing inappropriate information. Nearly 60% of parents believe that this is their greatest concern as it can obviously cause long-term damage to a child’s mental health. Although these fears are very realistic and valid, it should be stressed that many major social media platforms have tools in place to block potential predators and ensure that they can no longer interact with minors.
Children and parents alike are also worried about how social media is affecting their relationships with their bodies. As content creators continue to showcase their fitness journeys or their latest GRWM video, many viewers feel as if their own lives should adhere to this content. In addition, research shows that a third of British teenagers are concerned about their own body image, highlighting the significance of this issue across a variety of demographics.
How Is Social Media Affecting Our Youth?
With these issues infiltrating our daily social media habits, many begin to wonder how they are influencing our youngest citizens. The biggest consequence of these risks is their negative impact on children’s mental health. Research conducted by Gitnux informs us that 13% of 12-17-year-olds report feelings of depression, whereas a further 32% present symptoms of anxiety. Together with these striking statistics, Gitnux also states that a quarter of 18-25-year-olds report suffering from a mental illness. Though this data does not exclusively correlate increased social media usage with mental health issues, it offers us a key insight into the declining well-being of the next generation.
In spite of its potentially harmful effects on our mental health, many of us just cannot stay away from these platforms. Consumer Notice explains that 13-18-year-olds spend an average of 3 hours a day on social media, with some of the candidates spending up to 9 hours a day on these apps. As such, this data leads some psychologists to believe that 5-10% of Americans meet the criteria of a social media addiction.
Many campaigners are also pushing for better data security protocols, especially since a lot of social media platforms can collect a child’s online data without the need for their parent’s consent. These issues are also making waves across the US justice system with lawmakers proposing to alter the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to ensure that social media platforms can no longer collect data from users aged between 13 and 15. Thus, it seems that these concerns are reaching higher bodies and despite the issues, change is on the horizon.
What Platforms Are Causing the Most Concern?
|Platform||Risk of Cyberbullying|
How to Protect Your Child on Social Media
- Implement Parental Controls
Though social media can be a very difficult minefield to navigate, platforms now make it easier than ever to allow parents to monitor their children’s usage habits. For example, Meta has unveiled a diverse selection of safety features across both Instagram and Facebook to ensure that children can take a break from these platforms and disengage from the pressures seen online. As such, parents can learn how to balance their child’s social media habits with other aspects of their everyday life.
2. Decrease Screen Time
With 75% of teenagers having at least one active social media profile, it is vital that parents add screen time limits into their discipline routine. This can be achieved by setting specific limits on the device itself or on certain apps. In turn, children now have the chance to step away from their screens and focus on hobbies and interests that reside outside of social media. Plus, this is also a useful tactic to help children expand their attention span as they will have less access to apps that require them to change their focus consistently.
3. Use the Grandma Rule
The Grandma Rule is a useful component of online safety and asks children to reconsider the content they wish to post online. The best way to implement this rule is to ask your child ‘What would Grandma say if you showed her this post?’ This encourages children to use their own judgment and assess whether their content is taking their own privacy and modesty into account. It also deters children from sharing inappropriate or offensive content as they are more likely to think about how it will affect other users.
4. Educate Them on Their Personal Data
It is paramount that parents inform their children about the types of information that should not be shared on social media such as their full names, addresses, and schools. Make sure you go on to explain why they should not be sharing this information and do not be afraid to stress the dangers of online predators and scammers. Furthermore, it is also important that parents continue to model safe behavior on their own social media profiles. For example, do not share pictures of your child in their school uniform, and try not to offer too many pictures of your family home.
5. Have an Open Dialogue With Your Children
There is no doubt that social media will continue to adapt to changes in our population so it is good practice to upkeep these conversations with your children as often as possible. Try to take an interest in the types of content they are viewing online and assess whether it is appropriate for them. These conversations also create a sense of intimacy and ensure that your child is not using social media in secret or in ways that are not suitable for young people.
Benefits of Children Using Social Media
Although we have explored the negative side of social media, it is worth taking the time to discuss how these platforms have improved the lives of children. A comprehensive study from Ofcom states that though children recognize the dangers of social media, 61% of them believe that it helps them to stay closer to their friends. This is especially important in the modern age when children are often isolated from their peers due to lockdowns or increased time in classrooms. Thus, we can assume that social media has the potential to bring children together rather than tear them apart.
Social media can also help children learn a plethora of online skills, which are crucial in the modern job market. Content creators are quickly becoming a staple part of many brands’ marketing strategies, indicating that these skills are beneficial to those who wish to work in the world of business. As such, children now have the prime opportunity to build a portfolio of profitable skills, whilst also interacting with their friends and other forms of entertaining content.
Strategies such as the Grandma Rule also allow children to improve their critical thinking skills, which can lead to a heightened sense of empathy and compassion. As children learn to assess the appropriateness of their content, they also learn how it will impact the well-being of others. In turn, although issues like cyberbullying are difficult to ignore, it seems that these platforms can also help children form better relationships in the future.
Child safety on social media will always be a hot topic for parents but many can rest assured that there are ways to protect our youth. These platforms are constantly working to protect their users and data also suggests that children can form better interpersonal relationships by using social media in moderation.
Melody Day is a UK-based copywriter, working in developing industries such as travel, beauty, and lifestyle. She creates digestible copy that is fully optimized for SEO and gains positive engagement from readers. They are able to create engaging blogs and website copy for a range of unique brands.