Many parents we know have experienced issues involving their kids and the dangers of social media. We’ve been fairly lucky with our two older kids as they are not on any of the most popular social media platforms. Those would be Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok just to name a few. Even though they constantly ask to have them, our answers have always been no. We aren’t social media haters, but having social media is a responsibility, too much responsibility to just hand over to kids. All they see is how cool and popular they are without knowing the dangers that come along with sharing your life online.
Social media will continue to change and evolve into different platforms. The pioneer being AOL and AIM. We have seen a lot come and go (looking at you Myspace) while some continue to flourish, mainly Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok. Having grown up without social media (except AOL) can leave some parents unaware of the dangers our kids face. In order to protect them, we need to pinpoint the dangers of social media and guide our young children as they use it (once you allow them to of course). So before you say yes to allowing your kid to Snap, Insta or Tiktok, check out the 5 ways social media can hurt your kids.
1. Cyber Bullying
This seems to be the top one as the trend of being connected continues to grow. People feel powerful behind a screen and often say and do things they’d never say or do in real life. The effects of cyber-bullying are well-publicized, and social media sites continue working on ways to prevent it. However, parents need to be in regular communication with their kids about this and building trust so your children can talk to you if they are being bullied.
2. Emotional Instability
Even on a good day, teens’ emotional stability is on fragile ground. A recent study of over 6,000 12- to 15-year-olds found that spending three or more hours on sites correlated with higher rates of mental health issues. They recorded higher levels of depression and anxiety while also exhibiting more aggressive and antisocial behavior. How much time does your child spend on social media? Has your child been affected this way?
3. Sexual Predators
As you know, social media is a gateway to our children and sexual predators take advantage of every opportunity. These come in the form of Tiktok and Snapchat as well as the game Roblox. Because of the chat feature that is built in, this makes a primary way for predators to gain trust with kids is by seeking kids with low self-esteem. The predator sees phrases on social media such as “nobody gets me” or “I am so ugly” and will potentially target that child. Talk to your kids regularly about who they are interacting with online and how. Also ask how they feel about themselves. If a child isn’t being esteemed by a parent, he or she may seek esteem elsewhere.
4. Unrealistic Expectations
An adult can see what appears to be a perfect life online and understand that nothing is exactly as it seems. However, children get confused and compare their lives to the “great lives” they see on social media. This creates unrealistic expectations, discontent, loneliness, lowered self-worth, and jealousy. Explain the difference between social media and reality. Be empathetic when your kids feel left out. Limit their social media time and encourage them to live their own lives rather than watch someone else’s fake one.
5. Bad Influences
Social media “influencers” such as Danny Duncan, Emma Chamberlain, PewDiePie, and even Maddie Rae often have few credentials and most likely peddle beliefs opposite to those you are working to instill in your kids. To counter this, and all of these listed dangers, it’s important for us as parents to consistently spend time with and talk to our children. If we aren’t grounding our kids in morals and truth, social media will do the job for us.
Take away points
Snapchat and Tiktok seem to be ones my kids friends have and want. Did you know that Commonsensemedia.org recommends Tiktok to 16+ due to its mature content and privacy issues. In 2019 Tiktok settled with the FTC for child privacy violations. Developers created a separate section of the app for kids to use that allows to see curated, clean and appropriate videos. They can’t comment, search or post their own videos. However, bypassing that section can just be them putting in a false birthday, so take caution of it. The age to sign up is still 13, so if you are a parent whos kid has a smartphone, they technically shouldn’t be on it if they are under that age.
As always, this post is to help you understand the dangers that come along with social media and your children.