Blog 95. Parenting: Have You Begun To Recognise The Damaging Effects Social Media Can Have On Children?
Many parents are worried.
It is very hard to so “no”, to buying a child a smart phone, when all their friends have one. It’s very hard to stop a child from using Instagram or Snapchat when all their friends are participating in the mania.
But the result is scary – and many adults have no idea just how harmful social media can be. It is therefore very important that each parent takes the time to school themselves about the emotional and physical effects – and how to deal with what is happening to these modern kids.
Yet there are definite benefits to having a smart phone: from being able to contact your kids and them you, from alerting them that you’ll be late and them you, reminding them of appointments, and so on.
But, since children have started using smart phones, it is evident that:
1) Children are reporting feeling sad, hopeless and even depressed.
2) Children are feeling isolated and lonely.
3) Children are feeling not good enough and helpless.
4) Children are getting less sleep.
5) Concentration in school is proving difficult.
6) Levels of anxiety have increased.
7) Clinical depression has gone up drastically.
8) Self-harm has increased.
9) Eating disorders have increased
10) Clinical depression has risen.
11)And that suicide rates have increased substantially.
Other studies have revealed that:
- 1 in 5 children have mental health issues
- 43% increase in ADHD
- 37% increase in depression
- 200% increase in suicide rates.
This is indeed scary stuff.
And as a result, kids are seeing their friends less, they are exercising less, and some older teenagers aren’t even dating.
Parents may see or think of this as just some phase that their child will grow out of – without realising that something more sinister may be going on.
But parents don’t always realise that what can actually be happening is not like when they were at school. Now, whatever happens at school is not left behind until tomorrow – when things may have simmered down and possibly even forgotten. Rather, the ugliness and horror gets continued on social media sometimes even until the early hours of the next morning.
And what is continued – can be quite daunting even for parents to see. What is said, what is done, the pictures and gifs that are uploaded, can cause stress and a serious lack of concentration at school, as well as all the issues as seen above.
Also, parents may have been bullied or teased at school. Consequently, they may think its just part of the course of growing up and part of learning to toughen up. But social media takes bullying to a different and very worrying level. Sadly, psychologists are now also reporting that this type of extreme bullying can also lead to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) later on in life.
And trying to get to the bottom of any of these issues with a child or a teenager can prove very challenging: Children don’t always have the vocabulary or maturity that adults have – which is obvious upon reflection but which can be very frustrating during the moment of investigation.
Although they may seem to be able to communicate to some extent, finding the right words to transmit their fears and anxieties can be difficult, and it takes a certain amount of courage – which even some adults may find hard to do.
And, to then also admit to being teased, bullied, or indeed accused of being fat or ugly or any of the other things kids say, might seem like a communication step gone too far.
What kids say can sometimes be very painful and very hurtful. Often what is said can feel like such a personal attack – that then sharing this, even with loving, caring and compassionate parents can be excruciating – especially if it’s also true.
It is therefore important that parents become doubly aware of the pitfalls of social media – the trolling, the abuse and the repercussions.
And it is important that parents begin to help their children navigate this new world of social media.
But removing smart phones is not the answer – rather parents can help by:
Explaining the above to their children – and pointing out the importance of getting support when dealing with bullies or trolls. Even adults don’t always know how to deal with them – but by working together they can be beaten – and working together is far better than being on one’s own and suffering alone.
I would also even go as far as to suggest that parents of all schools get together to discuss the benefits as well as the negative or destructive repercussions of smart phones usage. This will allow everyone to come to some mutual decision about how to help their children handle social media more effectively, without having to suffer the abuse. And debates and talks, perhaps invited speakers can help a school inform it’s pupils why bullying is unacceptable and needs to stop. But that if the abuse or bullying continues – that it be reported with serious penalties attached for the perpetrator. This will teach children social responsibility and perhaps a bit of kindness too.
And parents can:
1) Help kids continue to build their self-esteem and confidence, by creating other activities like sports, hiking, camping, walking, going to movies, museums, playing games together as a family, and so on – in order to divert attention from all the smart phone usage.
2) It is also important to prevent a sedentary life style as this impacts on a child’s fitness levels, their weight and their health.
3) Another way is to swop chores for screen-time. This teaches children that work comes before play.
4) And parents need to make sure that their children are getting enough sleep – with smart phones switched off and perhaps left outside the bedroom.
But most importantly – parents also need to stop being digitally distracted.
Endless gratification, endless babysitters, constant noise, and the doing doing doing of stuff – needs to stop. Take a break and breathe. None of this is emotionally healthy and no social media ‘like’, is worth neglecting a child because you’re unable to control or discipline your own social media or life.
Of course this does certainly not apply to all parents, however the point I am making is that – we all need to become aware of how social media is impacting our lives.
Let us therefore never say that with regards a child we were not aware – and that we let social media trolls and bullies get the better of them.
As Nathaniel Branden once said, “ The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” Acceptance that – social media is unfortunately, not always as healthy and positive as we would like it to be.
Let us therefore never say that with regards a child we were not aware – and let social media trolls and bullies get the better of them.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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