Raising kids has never been harder. And I’m not just saying that because I’m raising a few of my own. Although that does have a big impact on my stance.
But, I’m not alone in that belief.
Parents surveyed agreed by a six-to-one ratio that parenting is harder today than it was in the past. And many agree that social media has changed the game when it comes to parenting kids in today’s digital age.
Another major challenge parents have today is balancing work and family life.
More households are becoming dual-income as the cost of living inflates. With both parents working, there’s added stress on the family unit. It’s challenging juggling between caring for your kids and meeting work deadlines. While also maintaining a functioning household.
I know firsthand how stressful it is managing a family and holding down a job.
But this is when I’m thankful we do live in a digital era. Technology has filled in the gaps for many of us parents who live in a constant state of multitasking.
It’s impossible to count how many times Amazon has come to my rescue. If I don’t have time to head to the store after work, not a problem – grocery delivery services are a confirmation click away.
And thanks to social media, Facetime, and Zoom, staying in contact with family members is so easy. And affordable. Sending a text, email, or Snapchat message is so simple you almost don’t have an excuse not to do it.
Technology has made parenting way more convenient.
And yet, even with all these conveniences, we as parents say it’s still harder to raise kids today.
Technology offers many benefits, to be sure. But let’s not forget those conveniences all come with a cost. Especially when it comes to parenting.
I don’t know about you, but I would gladly trade in a 2-hour grocery delivery if it meant I didn’t have to worry about cyberbullying. And if using calling cards rather than Facetime meant no online predators, count me in.
And yes, social media makes it far more convenient to connect. But it’s also a major reason our young kids feel so disconnected.
It was bad enough to show up at school and hear your friends talk about the party you weren’t invited to. Now our children also have to see it posted all over social media.
Not only do we have to teach our children about the dangers in the physical world, but we’ve added a whole new level – parenting in the online world.
I’ve been a parent for 11 years and have been a foster parent for five.
I know how important it is to have a support system in place and access to parents who’ve been where I’m at. If you’re a foster parent in the greater Seattle area looking for more guidance and encouragement, reach out to City Ministries Child Placement Agency.
They’ve been a valuable resource for us as foster parents and would love to do the same for you. Email them today. Learn how they support foster families and youth experiencing foster care.
No matter how old your kids are, understanding social media’s impact is important.
Your Child and Social Media.
Surveys show that out of 750 teens between the ages of 13 and 17, 45% are almost always online.
That’s a lot of time your child socializes online. But before you decide to ban social media altogether, there are some benefits to it.
Social media positively impacts your child by:
- Allowing them to connect with other people and build a larger network of friends
Your teen may find a network of like-minded people on social media.
This might be a group of people who experience a type of disability or chronic illness. These groups provide your child with support, value, and encouragement.
- Giving them a place to express themselves
Social media is a form of self-expression through the use of videos, photo collections, and other creative content.
Many teens express themselves with their fashion, taste in music, or artistic style. Social media is a place for kids to showcase who they are and what they care about.
- Helping them understand current events
A survey found that 54% of teens get their news updates from various social media platforms.1 These include Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thankfully, not all teens believe everything they read. But social media does play a role in educating youth about politics, health concerns, religion, and other global events.
When it comes to the harmful effects of social media on your teen, there are three areas to pay attention to. These include:
- Mental and Emotional Health
- Physical Health
- Relationships and Social Skills
Let’s break down these a little further.
How Social Media Impacts Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Health.
1. Self-Esteem Issues
It’s not surprising some experts worry our teens are more anxious and struggle with self-esteem because of social media. A big reason is so many kids are turning to online for their socializing rather than pursuing in-person interactions.
As a result, they’re missing out on non-verbal communication. Such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.
“As a species, we are very highly attuned to reading social cues. There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating – it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”
-Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect.
This leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and makes in-person interactions far more intimidating.
2. Cyberbullying and Harassment
A study found almost half of the teens in the U.S. have experienced some sort of online bullying.2 Physical appearance was the most common reason.
A few other alarming statistics when it comes to your teen and cyberbullying include:
- 32% reported being called a derogatory name
- 22% had false rumors spread about them
- 17% received unsolicited explicit images
- 15% were questioned by someone other than their parent about where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing
- 10% received physical threats
- 7% had explicit images of themselves shared without their permission
One of the biggest reasons for online bullying is the anonymity factor.
Bullies on social media platforms feel invincible because their identity is unknown. Making consequences for their actions nearly impossible.
Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicide.
3. Increased Addiction to Social Media
Several studies are looking at a so-called “social media addiction.”
It’s believed around 5% of young people have some sort of addiction to social media.3 This addiction is thought to be stronger than alcohol and cigarettes.
The addiction cycle looks something like this:
- Your teen gets that *urge* to check their social media account
- They feel instant gratification when they see their post has likes or comments
- As a result they experience a hit of dopamine (a chemical in the brain connected to pleasure)
They become addicted to checking and refreshing their posts so they continue getting that same instant gratification.
But what happens when their post or picture goes unnoticed with few likes or comments? They might interpret this as them not being funny, likable, or popular.
This internalized rejection leads to anxiety, loneliness, and lower life satisfaction.
4. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
Thanks to social media, kids are more aware of what they aren’t included in.
It is painful to see photos of all your friends getting together and you weren’t invited. Technology and social media create a 24/7 line of communication. And it can be hard to turn it off – particularly when your child’s addicted to checking their feed.
They don’t want to miss out on any of the action with their peers.
FOMO increases a person’s anxiety. This need to know what other people are doing leads to feelings of inadequacy and depression.
How Social Media Impacts Your Child’s Physical Health.
1. Lack of Exercise
It’s no surprise we’re a more sedentary society. Maybe even more so in the last few years (thank you, COVID).
Technology and social media aren’t helping our kids and teens stay active. Kids come home from school and turn to their phones and tablets to unwind. Instead of playing outside or connecting with people in real life.
Surveys show teens can spend upwards of six hours a day texting or using social media. That amount of time spent on a device means they’re spending less time doing anything physical.
There’s plenty of research on the impacts of social media and mental health. But there is still a lot to learn about its long-term effects on our physical health.
2. Disturbances in Sleep
The link between social media and sleep disorders is ongoing. But researchers believe one of the reasons is blue light exposure.
All light can interrupt our circadian rhythm, but blue light seems to have the greatest effect.
Blue light exposure is the light that’s emitted from your electronic device. This blue light suppresses melatonin and interrupts your sleep cycle.
Blue light also stimulates the part of your brain making you feel awake and alert – the opposite of what you want when going to sleep.
Blue light affects your sleep by:
- Making it hard to fall asleep
- Causing you to wake up too early
- Creating disruptions during your sleep.
New research found the more time your child spends on a device during the day, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. And the less sleep they got.4
Sleep issues can lead to insomnia and depression.
How Social Media Impacts Your Child’s Relationships and Social Skills.
1. Creating Superficial Connections
It’s easy to create a superficial image on social media. Most of us do it unconsciously.
Rarely do you see insecurities, weaknesses, or conflicts on someone’s feed. These superficial images lead to superficial connections. And without nonverbal cues on social media, it’s easy to confuse how intense a relationship is.
Your teen might believe the connection she has with someone is more serious than it actually is. She’s confusing intimacy in the digital world with intimacy in the physical world.
Connections on social media aren’t a substitute for real relationships with human interactions.
2. Communication Challenges
Social media has forever changed the way we communicate with each other.
We’re bombarded with instant updates, text messages, notifications, and posts all day. It’s overwhelming and somewhat addicting. Staying connected in the digital world means we stop living in the physical one.
This can be a hard balance for a young person.
Social media has created a struggle in communication in the following ways:
- False Sense of Urgency: Waiting for a response creates an unnecessary amount of anxiety for both the sender and receiver.
- Pressure to Share: Social media works best when you’re always posting and updating. Your child may feel like they need to create an experience so it appears they have an exciting life.
- Fake Interactions: Social media makes it easy to conceal true identities. People feel like they can say or do anything without consequences because it’s not face-to-face.
The more your child uses social media to communicate, the less they learn how to react to:
- Non-verbal cues
- Emotional cues
- Social cues
They become less aware of other people’s needs and lack the ability to respond appropriately.
So how can you teach your child how to balance and manage their social media interactions? Here are some helpful ways you can stay one step ahead of your teen when it comes to their social media accounts.
5 Ways You Can Protect Your Child on Social Media.
1. Educate yourself
Don’t wait for your child to come to you with the latest app or form of social media.
Stay informed about what’s changing on each platform. Learn how teens are interacting online. Don’t forget to talk with other parents and hear what they’re saying.
A few of the popular apps and social media platforms teens are using these days include:
- Kik Messenger
Learn each platform’s safety measures, and track who your child interacts with.
2. Decide on an appropriate age limit for your child
Because each app and platform are a little different, check the age rule first. Most social media platforms need a child to be at least 13 years old.
But 13 isn’t a magical number suggesting your child is mature enough to be on social media.
The U.S. surgeon general suggests “Regular social media use can dangerously alter kids’ brain development, even children who meet most platforms’ minimum age requirement of 13.”
As a parent, you need to decide when your child is capable of handling the pressure of social media.
3. Continue monitoring the privacy settings
Don’t assume once you set your child’s privacy settings they don’t need monitoring.
Social media platforms update their security settings, ensuring your child has the greatest protection. Make sure you stay on top of these updates.
There are apps designed to support your efforts in monitoring your child’s social media and online use. Some of the best parental control apps include:
- Norton Family
You also want to make sure you keep your child’s profile private.
4. Make sure your child knows what not to post
This includes personal information, phone numbers, home addresses, and check-ins.
Talk to your teen about what’s appropriate to post. Remind them how hard it is to erase photos or videos that are dangerous or jeopardize their character.
Explain how they leave a “digital footprint” wherever they go online.
Each time they use social media and other online platforms they leave a digital trail. Teach them the importance of posting content that positively reflects who they are.
5. Stay in communication with your child
It’s impossible to keep an eye on your teen’s social media accounts all the time. But you can continue to ask your child what’s going on in their online world.
Create a safe place for your child to come to you and talk about their social media use. You want to know about friend requests or messages they receive from strangers. Remind them to tell you if they see any cyberbullying.
Practice actively listening when your child shares about their online interactions. If your child knows you’re a safe place, they’re more likely to stay communicating with you.
Establish Guidelines at an Early Age.
Come up with a set of guidelines for online interactions right from the start. Create positive habits. Teach your child about the impact of social media before they even get started.
As your child gets older, allow them age-appropriate freedom online. This might mean letting your ten-year-old use Kids Messenger where you have complete access to what’s going on.
Teaching your child responsible behavior online empowers them to make wise choices.
Parenting in a Digital Era.
Technology and online interactions play a huge role in our world today. Especially with our children.
It keeps us connected and informed.
But it also adds more to our plate when it comes to parenting. Staying informed on what your child is doing online is the best way to protect your child from:
- Online predators
- Identity theft
- Destroying their reputation
- Bad influences
Teaching your child about how social media impacts their well-being is an important part of parenting today. Don’t overlook, underestimate, or ignore how influential social media is on your youth.
If you’re caring for youth experiencing foster care and want more support, reach out to City Ministries Foster Placement Agency. Their team provides wrap-around services for foster families and children in their care.
Email them today and learn how they can support you and your foster placement.
“Holding Them Closer | Parenting in America – The Hedgehog Review.” http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2013_Fall_Bowman.php. Accessed 12 Jun. 2023.
“Teens and social media use: What’s the impact? – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teens-and-social-media-use/art-20474437. Accessed 12 Jun. 2023.
“New Survey Reveals Teens Get Their News from Social Media and ….” 12 Aug. 2019, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/press-releases/new-survey-reveals-teens-get-their-news-from-social-media-and-youtube. Accessed 13 Jun. 2023.
“Teens and Cyberbullying 2022 | Pew Research Center.” 15 Dec. 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2022/12/15/teens-and-cyberbullying-2022/. Accessed 13 Jun. 2023.
“46+ Shocking Social Media Addiction Statistics (2023).” 22 Feb. 2023, https://headphonesaddict.com/social-media-addiction-statistics/. Accessed 3 Jul. 2023.
“Sleep mediates the association between adolescent screen time ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30897456/. Accessed 13 Jun. 2023.