Social media traffic has increased during this period that schools and most activities are on lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The internet offers children access to several valuable information and endless entertainment, but it comes with some danger. Since most of their learning is being done online, there is a tendency to deviate to other platforms that pop-up on the computer screen if not adequately supervised, and this may be the birth of social media addiction.
In addition, as they become more active on the internet, there is every possibility that they will be exposed to some websites or contents on social media that could be inappropriate for them.
The majority of children use these social media platforms regularly to stay connected with friends and family, enhance their creativity by exploring new ideas or composing songs, meet and interact with kids of similar interests.
The list of the benefits is enormous but the disadvantages of social media addiction among children has become a growing concern among parents, educators and the society at large.
Disadvantages of Social Media Addiction in Children
Several of the side effects discussed in this article are not just mere fallacies and hasty generalization as people may want to think. Proven research and findings have confirmed a number of children who have fallen prey to this issue being discussed. Here are some of the side effects of social media addiction:
- Poor mental health
As we all know that health is wealth, so the more reason for this first point. Children who spend more than three hours each school day on social media sites are more than twice as likely to suffer poor mental health. This is attributed to an increase in social comparison, cyberbullying, isolation, decrease in real life and face to face activities.
- Decline in subjective well-being
Subjective well-being pertains to personal mindsets. When there is a decrease in the well-being of a child, he or she is bound to feel less satisfied with his overall personal way of life.
- Sleep disorder
This happens because they are so glued to checking their social media always and this affects their sleep. Sleep is essential for healthy life development in the young brain and when there is inadequacy in their sleeping, it could cause headache and reduce their efficiency.
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
When they begin to nurse the fear of missing out on viral social media trends, memes, and jokes, it could lead to depression and anxiety. This is quite prevalent in teenagers and youths of today.
Compared to kids who spend less time on social media, kids who spend more time on social media are regularly stressed up, even without being actively involved in any physically strenuous activity.
- Reduction in social skills
Addiction to social media for social interaction reduces time spent in developing social skills and learning to read non-verbal cues, which is essential for understanding the emotions of other people. Reduction in social skills results in a decrease in empathy and an increase in narcissism (love of oneself).
- Wrong influence
Social media is a wide platform that accommodates different individuals from numerous backgrounds and behaviour, so there is every possibility that children could easily be influenced wrongly.
- Difficulty in distinguishing between promotional advertising and fake information
Most times, several celebrities and influencers are paid to promote products, services, events which they might not have truly partook in. These could give the children a false impression about a product or service especially if they don’t do further research about it.
- Some other disadvantages of social media addiction may include the following:
-They tend to post pictures, videos, materials, make inappropriate statements that may not be harmful to them now, but will likely hurt them in the near future.
-More screen time on social media can also cause an increase in suicide rate, because most things that encourage people to commit suicide are learned on social media.
-They are prone to misspell several words in real-world communication because social networking communication is filled with abbreviations and no spelling and grammatical rules.
– Getting likes for pictures, videos or content posted on social media can lead to the release of dopamine, which is one of the “feel good” chemicals in our brain. It can be very addictive because it is interacting with the pleasure and reward center of our brain
-It also trains the brain to have a short attention span since there is little or no concentration skills required in participation on social media.
Now that we know the side effects of social media addiction, how can you help your children?
Step-by-step Guide to Protecting Your Child from Social Media Addiction
The following steps should be taken to protect your child from the danger of social media addiction.
- Educate your child about the risk of social media — both the pros and the cons. For example, social media can be used for a more strategic goal like connecting with people of like-minds or similar interest. If a child is interested in coding, he can link up with another colleague that also codes in the US, UK, India etc.
- Encourage your child to spend quality time in actual communication than virtual communication. You can purposefully create time for this so that it is not left to chance.
- Advise them to spend time in real-life friendships and activities which are deeper than online friendship. This will help them to adapt to different personalities and body language needed to survive in the real world.
- Discover your children’s other interests such as sport, playing a musical instrument, writing, craft, singing and help them nurture their talents by spending more time on such activities than social media engagement. Make them attend tutorials, join clubs and organizations that are involved in these activities and be there with them through it all by sacrificing time and money for them.
- Encourage them to take advantage of the internet for learning. There are several things that could add value to your children online, make them better and be at a great advantage to other colleagues. Learning does not have to be academics alone.
- If you discover that they are depressed as a result of social comparison, what you need to do is to inform them that the basis of comparison found online does not represent the whole story; it may just be the best part. Advise them to limit checking the updates of people showing too many luxuries on social media.
- Emphasize the difference between writing and spelling on social networks and the real world. Encourage them to write correctly in both cases in order not to fall prey to a misspelling in the real world, especially in school which will count greatly.
- Learn about programs and applications your children are using and join the social media that they belong to, so as to be aware of how it works and the impact on them. Carefully follow and limit comments on your children’s posts so as not to limit their expression. This gives a genuine opportunity to give proper feedback later.
- Tell your children you are monitoring their online activities for their safety. Some kids can feel you are interfering with their privacy and sometimes create other accounts that they will be more active on.
- Get online family protection. This provides parental controls that can block websites, enforce time limits, monitoring of websites visited and online conversation.
- Be a role model of good behaviour on your own social media account and set good examples in the way you handle your use of phones and the internet too.
- Set a screen time limit and teach your child the value of unplugging from devices for technology-free time.
- Teach them about online privacy and instruct them not to share their passwords or personal details with anyone, especially people they don’t know in real life.
- Consider making a social media contract with your kids. In the contract, you make them agree to protect their privacy, reputation, and to never give out personal information that can be exploited by online predators. In turn, you would agree to respect their privacy by being their friend on social media but not leaving embarrassing comments in their posts.
Helping your children curb social media addiction will help them in the future because most jobs are now technology-driven, and some tasks must be done online without distractions.