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The Effects of Social Media on Child Development

It's no secret that social media has had a profound effect on the way we live our lives. But what about the impact it has on our children?

A growing body of research suggests that too much time spent on social media can have negative consequences for kids' physical and mental health, social development, and academic performance. kids on both laptop and mobile looking at social media

It would seem the jury is still out on this....

Research carried out so far has not produced a particularly clear picture of what constitutes "too much" time on social media.

Experts agree that more high-quality studies are needed to fully understand the impact of social media on children's lives.

What we do know is that it would be difficult to find a teenage social media user who isn't at least occasionally troubled by what they see on their screens.

Despite the fact that only about 1 in 5 teens say they are online almost constantly, many admit to feeling pressure to be available around the clock.

This constant connection can create unrealistic expectations among teens about how available people should be and how quickly they should respond. And it can have negative effects on their well-being, including affecting their sleeping and eating patterns.

Social media is not all bad news....

The potential benefits of social media use are real - for young people growing up in increasingly diverse communities, social media can serve as a vehicle to broaden horizons by connecting them with people that they would otherwise not even know about, let alone make contact with.

Social media can also be a powerful force for good, giving kids the opportunity to connect with peers facing similar challenges and allowing mental health issues to be shared and discussed more openly.

Some social media sites have built-in safety features to help kids protect themselves. Instagram, for example, provides a tool which enables users to hide their activity on the site from specific followers.

Facebook offers tools to control who can contact you and what posts they can see - as well as an online support community through its Messenger service.

While parents may wish social media could just go away, it's here to stay. Even if you limit your child's access to social media it's nearly impossible to prevent him or her from being exposed to what everyone else is posting.

Like most things, moderation may be the key.

Here are some tips for helping your child navigate social media pressure and stress:

  • Encourage them to do something offline with friends at least once a week.
  • Make sure they get enough sleep (at least 8 ½ hours per night for the average teen).
  • Limit screen time daily.
  • Be involved with their online lives by encouraging them to post about topics they are passionate about and monitor who they interact with.
  • Acknowledge that social media is part of their generation's reality and be willing to talk about it.

We know that too much screen time has been linked to obesity, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, negative body image, and poor school performance, just to name a few.

What we don't know with too much certainty is whether social media causes problems like these or simply exacerbates them in kids with pre-existing issues. However, we do know that social media can be addictive and we urge parents to keep the risks in mind when deciding how much screen time is right for their children.

The positive effects of social media on teens outweigh the negative, but it does seem to impact them negatively in some cases.

The addictive elements of social media can affect their well-being and create unrealistic expectations among teens - it does tend to give the impression that it has more of an influence over their life than parents would like it to have, despite its negative connotations.

Social networking sites give teens the ability to quickly and easily connect with friends and family - it's a great way of telling their social circle where they are or what they're doing, such as sharing pictures of school dances or parties.

So much so that they are even checking out other people's profiles on these sites during the day at school to see what others are saying about them and who is saying it.

Teens may not feel like they fit in, but by looking at their classmates' profiles, they suddenly have direct access to other people's opinions and a number of friends - something that can cut both ways.

Using social media can make teens feel more positive about themselves because it helps them to realize that other people go through similar things, such as feeling left out or having difficulty making friends.

Children's use of social media is associated with increased peer relationship problems - girls were more likely than boys to report increases in relational victimisation, whereas boys were more likely to report declines in popularity.

Girls tended to report decreases in relational victimisation only when the quality of their offline friendships were taken into account.

Boys tended to report increased popularity only when the quality of their offline friendships was also considered.

Wrapping Up:

The use of social media has exploded in the past decade, and with it, concerns about its effects on child development.

While there is no one answer to this question, researchers are beginning to understand how different types of social media platforms can influence children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. 

While it's clear that social media has some negative effects on children, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives.

However, parents should be involved with their child's online life and monitor who they are interacting with.

Additionally, screen time should be limited in order to reduce the chances of obesity, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, etc.

There are certainly benefits to social media use for children, however, it is still important for parents to be aware of the risks and set limits on their child's screen time.

By being proactive and setting guidelines for social media use, parents can help their children enjoy the benefits while minimizing the potential negative effects.

Have you set rules about social media use in your home? How do you monitor your child's online activity.

Previous article How To Regulate Your Child's Use Of Technology
Next article How Does Social Media Impact Children's Literacy Skills?

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