Social Media Woes

Parents, we just found this amazing resource, and we want to share it with you. It has to do with social media use in children.

When social media began to emerge in the early 2000s, we admit we mainly thought of it as a way to keep in touch with old college friends and family who live far away. Our first children (now adults) got accounts as teenagers, and we didn’t think too much about it — but we probably should have. As our family grew, social media became more and more prevalent in everyone’s lives. Our younger children started demanding to get social media accounts because literally ALL THEIR FRIENDS were on it. 

But things have changed as social media has spread in our society, and now the data is starting to roll in.  It’s probably not a coincidence that rates in teenage depression began to climb at the same time that teens began to join social media in large numbers, around 2010 or 2012.  Facebook, which owns Instagram, admitted in 2019 that they knew their platform makes body image issues worse for one in three girls, and that teens with mental health issues said that viewing Instagram made them feel worse.  This is crucial information for any parents trying to navigate their children through adolescence. If your child struggles with social anxiety or body issues, time on social media might well exacerbate the situation. 

This is one good reason to delay social media accounts until teens are older — seventeen or eighteen — and are past most of the awkwardness and anxiety of hormonal changes. And monitor what your girls are looking at online, even if it’s not social media: scrolling through thousands of photos of ultra-thin models or celebrity characters can stoke unhappiness or self-hatred in your daughter. 

Girls in particular are prone to depression from social media use, since girls value intimacy and inclusion and are more afraid of missing out on something as well as more sensitive to relational aggression.

Some researchers and educators are encouraging schools to ban smartphone use, especially in middle school. If you are active in your local school board, this is definitely a cause to get behind, since unlike sugar, prevalent social media use in school affects even the kids who aren’t online. 

So parents, if you want to keep up with the ongoing research on the problematic and addictive effects of social media, check out this very useful & constantly updated compilation for parents & researchers by Jonathan Haidt here.