Today, social media is no longer considered “new”. For kids and teens today, it’s something they’ve grown up with. Completely integrated into our culture, social media isn’t going anywhere, which means it’s more important than ever to really understand how it works - and what it’s doing, especially to children and teens who have never known life without it.
And, while a lot of parents are only concerned with the negatives of using social media (leading to a complete ban of specific platforms), it’s good to remember that there are positives, too. For example, using social media can advance technical skills, encourage creative expression, and help foster long-term relationships.
Of course, it’s the negative effects that have most parents concerned - and rightfully so.
Below are five of the most detrimental physical and emotional effects of social media on children and teenagers according to the latest studies.
- The more your child or teen uses social media, the more likely they are to get addicted to its stimulus. And, like any addiction, being addicted to platforms like Instagram or Facebook, drastically impacts moods. For sensitive children and teens, this pattern of addiction can lead to an emotional (and sometimes dangerous) roller coaster. According to some surveys, heavy users of social media check their news feeds more than 100 times each day.
- Physical Activity. Because of the addiction children and teens feel with social media, the rest of their lives are disrupted - including physical activity like sports. The value they place on social media means that they will choose to spend their time on it, rather than getting outside or exercising.
- Mental Health. If your child or teen spends more than 3 hours on social media each day, then research shows they are more than twice as likely to struggle with mental health. Even just one hour of social media, according to a report by the IZA Institute, can be enough to make teenagers feel miserable. Why? It has to do with the compounding effects of cyberbullying, endless comparisons, and fewer 1v1 interactions.
- Social media has the tendency to skew everything towards the individual - what your profile looks like, how many likes you receive, etc. This self-centeredness is being linked to a lack of empathy, as well as dysfunctional emotional conditions, such as narcissism. And, with selfies still being ever popular, teens especially can find themselves obsessed with how they look and how they are perceived online.
- Social media platforms play tricks on your child’s brain with bright colors and sounds. As children and teenagers spend more time under the influence of social media, their brains become “infantile” again, which means that their attention span is significantly decreased.
And, of course, none of this takes into account the potential dangers of cybercrime, which often target younger children and adolescence.
As parents, it’s important to understand both sides of social media, the good and the bad, so that you can work with your child to navigate it. Becoming aware of the negative effects will help you talk with your child or teen, giving them the information they need to make smart, healthy decisions.
This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.