Social media is here to stay. Parents will do themselves a favor if they learn more about it so that their children can gain the positive influences it brings, and avoid or at least minimize the negative influences.
It’s a mixed bag; there are good and bad things about social media. On the positive side, kids can learn to interact with people and become more social. On the negative side, they feel inadequate when their life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s life.
Social media such as MySpace, SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram, along with others, are popular with adolescents and teens. It allows kids to share pictures, create a network of friends, and exchange comments.
Statistics show that seventy percent of American teens use social networking sites on a regular basis. According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a large part of a child’s development today comes from social media. AAP encourages parents to be involved in their child’s activities online.
Studies have shown that social media has helped shy kids become more social, as they can interact in a less-threatening way. As these kids feel more welcome in the group, they relax, get more involved, and begin making stronger friendships.
These sites are also a good way for kids to connect with others who have similar interests, whether it’s being in the school band, taking part in a school play, playing sports, or video games. It can also be a great way to rally together for a shared cause, like a fundraiser for a person in need.
Parents should stay involved in their children’s social media activities. Because it’s not a face-to-face conversation, kids are more likely to say things they wouldn’t have the courage to say otherwise. They can make cruel comments and cause hurt feelings.
Kids can also create a fantasy world by making exaggerated claims of gifts, trips, and experiences, causing other kids to feel inadequate and anxious.
These years are challenging on their own as kids deal with puberty, awkwardness, social anxiety, and school. Adding social media in the mix can cause additional stress in some children.
They can become discontent with what they have and compare their activities with their friends’ activities. It’s tragic when you realize that the one they are jealous of could be exaggerating in the first place. There are risks and rewards with most things. Banning kids from social media isn’t usually the best solution, as there are many positive things that can come from it.
Using experiences to teach your children positive behavior will help them later in life. If they’re removed from a situation entirely, they may not have the opportunity to grow and learn from it.
Talk with your kids daily about their experiences; help them work through stressful situations. Technology is here to stay. Successful parents give their children the tools they need to cope with both the good and the bad in life.
Albert Richert, Jr. MD, is a pediatrician with The Pediatric Center.