In a society where technology and social media have become a consistent part of life, many parents worry about the long-term impacts it might have on their child’s cognitive development and behavior. According to a report from Common Sense Media, “Kids younger than 8 are reportedly spending an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes per day glued to screens. Roughly 30% of that time is spent on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.”
As for younger adults, 91% of 16- to 24-year-olds use the internet for social network. They spend an average of 1,200 hours per year on social media apps. This amount of time spent on social media apps has altered teens’ communication and socialization skills. Social media apps also give teens the ability to indirectly communicate cruelly and bully in ways they wouldn’t do face to face. They also create a false sense of reality, potentially causing huge impacts on both mental and emotional health.
Donna Wick, EdD, founder of Mind-to-Mind Parents, says that for teenagers, the combined weight of vulnerability, the need for validation, and a desire to compare themselves with peers forms what she describes as a “perfect storm of self-doubt.”
Follow are the top four negative impacts of social media may have on kids and teenagers.
1. Anxiety and Depression
Research suggests that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress – unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact their level of functioning – often in the same context of strain or stress. Parents can help combat their teens’ depression by modeling positive emotional behavior, as well as providing appropriate support without discounting their emotional lives. Showing empathy and asking open-ended rather than pointed questions are great ways to demonstrate this.
2. Loss of Sleep
When teens and younger children don’t get enough sleep, they may have reduced cognitive function and lower academic performance. Give your children a set hour before bed when they have to “unplug.”
3. Body Image
An eating disorders clinic in Chicago reported that 30 to 50% of their teen patients used social media as to support and develop their eating disorders.
Michelle Marie King, a Colorado-based positivity activist and former model and pageant winner, has used her own struggles with body image to create Positive Presence, a model-coaching and life-coaching company. She encourages parents to “keep an open dialogue with your children, and when they experience the times of low confidence, remind them of their strengths to help them overcome negative self-talk.”
Being victimized online can cause lasting effects into adulthood, and has led to suicide. There may be a link between the rise in suicide rates in the United States and cyberbullying. According to data from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades.”
Michelle Marie King advised parents to get to know their children’s friends, especially the ones they look up to and want to be like. “Host movie nights and fun get-togethers with their friends and their friends’ parents to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding positive engagement in the group.”