Social media. You may hate it, you may love it, or you may be one of the few who’s indifferent to it. No matter how you feel about it though, it’s now a part of our culture. As it continues to change and evolve, it is becoming easier and easier for the youth to become entrapped in the “game” of social media status. With more YouTubers, Instagram influencers, and communicative tools that emerge daily, we want to take the time to discuss the positive and negative impacts social media can have on your kids and what you can do to be aware of their online time.
First Things First, What’s Your Relationship with Social Media?
Before we dive into your kids’ behavior, we should take a moment and reflect on your relationship with social media. How often are you checking your latest post for likes and comments? How often are you posting? When you comment, do your words come from a place of openness and understanding or do you let your emotions get the better of you? As you are the main role model for your kids, they are going to pick up on your habits both in real life and online – whether you realize it or not. On family outings, are you trying to take the most aesthetic pictures and immediately posting them to social media without actively engaging in the family activity? Or do you wait until you are home after the excursion to think of hashtags?
Now before we get further into this, we want to clarify and make sure that you understand that we don’t want to vilify social media or your presence on it. Rather, we want to encourage a healthy balance with it. We understand that social media is now a means of income for some families. And there is zero judgment on where your income is stemming from. At the same time, we wouldn’t be true to our values if we weren’t looking at the whole picture and encouraging reflection about this topic.
The Negative Impact of Kids and Social Media
We err on “bad news first”, so let’s take a look at the possible negative effects social media can have on your kids:
Poor Mental Health:
Social media filled with images of idealized lives and photoshopped influencers with millions of followers. It’s hard not to judge yourself against others, whether those others are classmates or celebrities, especially when social media can quantify worth with numbers of likes, followers, and comments. Anxiety, depression, and being dissatisfied with one’s own life has been shown to increase in those who are extremely active on social media.
Cases of cyberbullying have increased as more social media platforms are popping up. They can occur in group chats, private messaging, subtweets, and even hashtags. Cyberbullying is extremely dangerous because of ephemeral content, AKA content that disappears after a certain amount of time. Kids can get clever in utilizing this type of tactic as they know this kind of bullying is easier to get away with.
Social Media Addiction:
Many have said that gaining likes and shares activates the reward center of the brain. This means that social media can become extremely addictive as the need for status increases. And the worst part is that one post (and how well-liked it is) can either make or ruin a child’s day. And that’s just with active users. Passive users of social media can spend hours scrolling through photos or watching videos from the accounts they follow. Social media has become an incredible procrastination tool, which has been shown to affect mood and behavior.
Risky Behavior Highlighted in “Challenges”:
How many times have you told your kids “If so and so jumped off a bridge would you do it to?” Unfortunately, in today’s world, not only are kids engaging in these kinds of risky activates, but they’re also filming it for their own social platforms. The craze of “challenges” and getting a great photo for “the gram”, kids have been known to participate in dangerous activities all for the sake of likes. This includes climbing tall buildings and structures without proper safety equipment, running through traffic, sucking on shot glasses for “Kylie Jenner Lips”, and other absurd behavior.
Lack of Empathy and Hate Speech:
For many youngsters, the internet and social media have always been a mainstream part of their lives. Meaning that in short, they’ve grown up with the concept of an online vs real-life presence. They’ve learned that they can be one way in the present world and can act in a completely different way on the anonymous web. Unfortunately, this has led to a lack of empathy and an increase in aggressive language online. In part, this is because it is harder to see the consequences of these actions.
But with Negatives, there are Positives
Yes, social media is mainly talked about in negative ways with regard to children. But it does have its advantages as well:
Increasing Technological and Learning Skills:
Technology is the future right? Kids on social media are continually learning skills necessary in this digital age. They can type quicker and even scan more efficiently than the generations before. Social media has even challenged the way kids are able to learn through things like YouTube tutorials. (Seriously, you can learn almost anything on that platform).
Expressionism and Activism:
Social media isn’t just about selfies and product placements. It’s actually a great tool in regard to creative self-expression. There are thousands of accounts dedicated to photography, music, fashion design, painting, crafting, and more. Social media has allowed them to interact and get feedback with those who would normally never see their art. Not to forget that these encounters help encourage kids to be true to their authentic selves. Another incredible way that kids are using social media is to encourage activism. Social media is an easy way to share information on topics they are engaged in such as climate change, animal cruelty, free-trade, and civil rights (just to name a few).
Networking and Friendship:
While many like to claim that social media is ruining real-life relationships, it is actually helping those who normally have trouble cultivating said relationships. Social media is a great way for normally shy kids to curate and maintain long-term friendships. Think of it as the pen-pal of the future. It can also help kids connect with others who share their interests and help them grow in their hobbies.
Many adult social media feeds seem to be filled with sad news stories and hate speech filled comments. But kids tend to share a lot more positives than negatives. As they are in control of who they follow and what they see on their feed, more kids are choosing to follow accounts with positive messaging and feel-good stories. There have also been a number of fundraising and awareness campaigns that have started on social media. These virtual campaigns have gone on to flourish and help real-life families.
Play an Active Role in Your Child’s Social Media Presence
We know you want to protect your kids from the worst. Try the following to help your kids make good choices in regard to their presence on social media:
Talk to your kids about the social media sites they are on. Explain to them the possible dangers of being on those sites. Advise they become a social media advocate and use their “platforms” to spread positivity and goodness. Have them keep a lookout for possible cyberbullying and reach out to friends and acquaintances after concerning posts.
We like to follow the rule of “if you can post it online, you can talk about it in real life”. Open the doors of communication with your kids. Encourage them to share as much with the family as they do online. As much as adults know the importance of networking for future opportunities, we also know the importance of spending time offline with family and friends.
Get on The Sites They’re On:
“You don’t know what you don’t know”. If you’re concerned about the sites your kids are on, get on them yourself. Supervise their activity – without completely dictating their every move. And let them know that you are aware of their online presence. Encourage them to follow positive accounts with good role models and use their platform in a positive manner.
*However do yourself a favor and refrain from commenting and engaging with the content they post.
Let CPA Help You!
Helping your kids without turning into a helicopter parent is hard. Let us help you navigate that blur of a line and help you be the best parent you can be. Cristina Panaccione and Associates has two locations in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you learn the skills you need to cope with the punches life throws at you!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Scott Cunningham – LPC
For the past 20 years, Scott has been providing a safe and supportive environment where people feel comfortable talking about their depression, fears, stresses, and hopes for life. Having a collaborative relationship with clients is important to him. Scott brings hope and knowledge into his sessions and provides psycho-education to aid in the effectiveness of therapy. He works with clients coping with issues such as, but not limited to anxiety, trauma, depression, partner-relational issues & phase of life transitions. My experience entails couples, adolescent, family and adult counseling. He is certified in Chemical Dependency Counseling, ASIST Suicide Intervention, Crisis Intervention Stress Management, and Comprehensive Crisis Management. He has earned his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s of Science in Christian Counseling from Fort Wayne Bible College.
Scott’s goal is to help people struggling with trauma to regain stability and strength as well as insight into their issues. He believes that everyone has an innate ability to grow and learn. He enjoys helping people accomplish that goal and live better and more productive lives.