Many parents have experienced issues involving their kids and the dangers of social media. We’ve been fairly lucky with our daughters, but there was one night when my eldest daughter and a friend decided to make fun of another girl online. We were quickly informed by the other parent, and we decided to take a big stand as parents at that moment. In hindsight, that night was the most trouble she was ever in during those years. Parents must set and enforce tight boundaries regarding social media use.
Social media will evolve, change stripes and colours, and refine as technology continues its advance, but it definitely won’t be going away. Having grown up without social media can leave parents unaware of the dangers our kids face. In order to protect them, we need to pinpoint the dangers of social media and walk alongside our children as they use it. Here are 5 ways social media is hurting your kids.
1. Emotional Instability
Even on a good day, teens’ emotional stability is on fragile ground. A recent study of over 6,000 12- to 15-year-olds found that spending three or more hours on sites correlated with higher rates of mental health issues. They recorded higher levels of depression and anxiety while also exhibiting more aggressive and antisocial behaviour. How much time does your child spend on social media? Has your child been affected this way?
People feel emboldened behind a screen and often say and do things they’d never say or do in real life. The effects of cyber-bullying are well-publicized, and social media sites continue working on ways to prevent it. However, parents need to be in regular communication with their kids about this and building trust so your children can talk to you if they are being bullied.
3. Sexual Predators
Social media is a gateway to our children and sexual predators take advantage of every opportunity. A primary way predators gain trust with kids is by seeking kids with low self-esteem. The predator sees phrases on social media such as “nobody gets me” or “I am so ugly” and will potentially target that child. Talk to your kids regularly about who is interacting with them online and how. Also, ask how they feel about themselves. If a child isn’t being esteemed by a parent, he or she may seek esteem elsewhere. Here is a resource regarding predator tactics.
4. Unrealistic Expectations
An adult can see what appears to be a perfect life online and understand that nothing is exactly as it seems. However, children get confused and compare their lives to the “great lives” they see on social media. This creates unrealistic expectations, discontent, loneliness, lowered self-worth, and jealousy. Explain the difference between social media and reality. Be empathetic when your kids feel left out. Limit their social media time and encourage them to live their own lives rather than watch someone else’s fake one.
5. Bad Influences
“If we aren’t grounding our kids in morals and truth, social media will do the job for us.”
Social media “influencers” often have few credentials and most likely peddle beliefs opposite to those you are working to instil in your kids. To counter this, and all of these listed dangers, it’s important for us as parents to consistently to spend time with and talk to our children. If we aren’t grounding our kids in morals and truth, social media will do the job for us.