How Does Social Media Affect Children's Self Esteem?
Today, social media is a part of most children's lives and the majority of us are aware of the negative effects that this can bring about.
The same effect also takes place with adults, but it is more visible in children.
The term 'self-esteem' has been used by experts to refer to confidence, self-respect, and positive thinking about one's abilities and potential.
So, if social media affects self-esteem in children, then we should find out how and why?
The effect of social media has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now...
There are some who'd say that social media affects self-esteem in a negative way while others only think of it as positive.
Many studies have been done trying to understand the effect of using technology on children's behaviour and how different factors affect their self-esteem.
The following are some reasons why social media use negatively affects children's behaviour and their sense of self-worth:
There has been an increase in the number of narcissists because teenagers tend to mimic what they see on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Many people have become interested in getting 'likes' for their posts just so they can feel good about themselves. It is therefore not surprising that this behaviour has started at younger ages now.
Studies have shown that young individuals who are constantly bombarded with positive messages on social media tend to have low self-esteem.
The more people idealise themselves on these platforms, the more children will believe that they too should be perfect and see themselves as perfect.
This might, in turn, lead them to become highly critical of themselves and feel that they are not good enough and that is why they cannot be as 'positive' as the people on social media.
Vulnerability to cyberbullies
Bullying through technology has been an increasing problem among kids these days.
Cyberbullying is now a common practice because it can happen with anonymity without any chance of being caught.
Children who use social media extensively such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are more vulnerable than others.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
Children are constantly comparing themselves to what is portrayed online and it can give them FOMO or fear of missing out.
This means that they constantly worry about the things that their friends are doing because it seems so much cooler than what they're experiencing at home, which leads to this need for perfection just to keep up with everything else.
Creating a false reality
Most times you know someone's true identity but on social media, you only see what that person wants to show.
This false sense of reality can then cause a lot of disappointments when the truth is revealed since the child's idea of that person is different.
Social media also creates virtual relationships which can lead to false expectations of what real-life relationships are like.
Self-identity among the youth is heavily influenced by social media, which means they base their self-esteem on how many 'friends' or people follow them.
They feel good about themselves when they get attention for something they've posted while down in the dumps when nobody shows interest in what they're sharing.
Loss of identity
Most times children do not have their own personalities and they just mimic what other people are doing in order to fit in and feel popular.
They also take lots of selfies or post things that they think will get attention and likes, but then gradually start to lose their own identity which leads to conflict with the self.
Lack of empathy
Children who constantly compare themselves online tend not to understand others' problems because they only see what is on their screens and not what happens behind them.
This can lead to a lack of empathy and a sense of disconnection from life experiences.
The effects of social media on children's behaviour and self-esteem need not be negative as there are ways we can use technology positively in building our children's confidence and self-worth.
A study conducted by Kognito at Cornell University found that when teachers used avatar-based simulations to train social and emotional skills, they managed to successfully boost students' confidence.
As long as this behaviour does not become an obsession, there's no reason why children cannot use technology positively in order to gain self-awareness of their emotions, gain new friends, and communicate with others better.
How to help your child maintain a positive self-image from social media
Even though you cannot entirely stop your child from using social media, there are ways to help them maintain a positive self-image:
Don't compare your children to people on social media
Your children might not know that they're being compared to others and it can lead them to feel insecure about themselves when in reality, they're perfectly fine just the way they are.
Instead of comparing your kids with other people's profiles, sit down and talk to them about how they can be better or what they can do differently so that their friends would like them even more than before.
Encourage healthy use of technology: try limiting screen time
When we spend less time on our phones and laptops, we give ourselves more time for introspection which in turn helps us form our own identity.
Try limiting screen time to 30 minutes for every hour and encourage your children to spend the rest of the time in face-to-face interactions or outside.
Encourage bonding with friends without technology
Although social media brings people closer than before, it doesn't substitute real-life experiences.
Make an effort to bond with your child's friends in person so they would know what friendship is truly like instead of treating it as something that happens over a phone call or chat conversation.
Learn more about your children's interests on social media pages
A lot of parents ignore their kids when they're online but checking out what they're doing on their social media profiles can help you learn what makes them happy, what they like, and what kind of experiences they're gaining that you could help them with.
Encourage offline experiences such as sports or other activities
When children go through things in real life, it will benefit them more than posting about it on social media because getting attention from strangers for something you did not actually do does not make much sense and would only give your child a false sense of identity.
Help them learn how to manage other people's opinions
It is important to teach our children how to deal with other people's comments about them but instead of silencing negative messages, you should use doubt as an opportunity for learning critical thinking skills.
You can start by asking questions such as: 'What do you think about this?' or 'Is this a fair comment?' so your child will be forced to think critically about the person who left a negative remark.
Social media has a lot of benefits but it also has its share of disadvantages when it comes to children's self-esteem.
The fear of missing out, the creation of a false reality, and the lack of empathy are some of the negative consequences that children can suffer from if they're constantly exposed to social media.
It is important for parents to be aware of these dangers and control the amount of time their children spend on social media.
There are also ways in which we can use technology positively to help build our children's confidence and self-worth.
It's not just about the number of likes they get on social media platforms.
Social media is a big part of many people's lives, and it can have an impact on their self-esteem if used excessively or without boundaries.
With so much information at our fingertips, we need to be mindful that social media doesn't work in isolation-it feeds into other aspects of our life too.
If you're worried about your child’s use of social media, speak with them and let them know how important moderation is for healthy mental health.