Is your child disinterested in video games, television, and texting, but alarmingly enthralled by social media sites?
As Devika, my friend’s daughter puts her point across “During the summer holidays, I lost my phone. And for the week that I was phoneless, it felt like a disaster. I love my phone. It gives me quick access to information and allows me to be constantly looped in with my friends, to know exactly what is going on in their lives. So when I didn’t have my phone for a week, I felt a slight sense of Fomo, or if you’re not up to speed with the lingo, ‘fear of missing out’. By the end of the week, I’d got used to not having a phone and I’d quite enjoyed the break from social media. But there was still a lingering sense of sadness at the back of my mind that there would be conversations I had missed, messages that had been sent, funny videos shared and night-time chats that I would probably never get to see”
A separate study has found that, rather than talking to their parents, girls seek comfort on social media when they are worried. The survey also suggests that girls are likely to experience stress more often than boys – an average of twice a week.
It’s becoming more and more obvious how the pressures of social media disproportionately affect teenage girls. I can see it all around me. Pressure to be perfect. To look perfect, act perfect, have the perfect body, have the perfect group of friends, the perfect amount of likes. Perfect, perfect, perfect! And if you don’t meet these ridiculously high standards, then the self-loathing and bullying begins.
Why is social media so popular?
Two primary reasons for people of all ages include a love of “sharing” and searching for “entertaining or funny” content. These sound like healthy reasons to use social media. Nothing to worry about, so… what are parents afraid of? On the surface, social media is an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection.
But being a good digital parent: what you’re up against
Social media, like other technology has the potential to provide enormous benefits or catastrophic damage to your child’s frame of mind. It’s safe in proper doses that are cautiously monitored; but it can be harmful if obsessively used with wide-open access to age-inappropriate content.
Am I too fat or too thin or too short/tall?
More time spent on social media has been associated with more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends, as a research suggests. “The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know.”
Does your teenage son groove at photos of his drunken friends vomiting at parties? Is your daughter starving herself so her next “selfie” can match her stick-figured friend’s? Are your tween twins suddenly losing sleep due to cyber victimization? If you don’t know the answers, it’s time to ask — By limiting hours per day, monitoring content, and openly explaining how social networking habits can negatively impact their developing brains, you can be on your way to smart, and safe, digital parenting.
Parenting in the age of technology
Are there any simple rules for monitoring a child’s technology — whether it means video games, tablets, cell phones, TV or social media? Unfortunately, there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of technology on the brain. But since technology isn’t going anywhere, parents need to think carefully about the role it plays in our children’s lives. Every child is different, so it is difficult to draw hard-and-fast rules, but wise parents go for less tech use rather than more.
In the end, it’s vital to remember that your kids are watching you. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work when it comes to technology. If your face is pasted to an electronic screen most of the time, your impressionable offspring will consider that normal, and do the same. Shut off all gizmos regularly and enjoy face-to-face conversation.
Take your children outside, without digital toys, and enjoy the wind, sunshine, trees, and flowers. Growing brains need the kind of nourishment that technology — no matter how sophisticated and bewitching, can never supply.