As parents we are consistently concerned about all the dangers our children will face in the World they grow up in, from crossing the road to playing in the park with friends. It often feels like around every corner a new danger is lurking, ready to pounce and place our children at risk.
The World is becoming an ever more dangerous place, or at least this is the sentiment held by most parents in the 21st Century. The media consistently reminds us of this alleged dangerous World we now find ourselves in. Because of this though we have seen perhaps a far bigger danger being exposed to our children, inside, at home in front of our very eyes and though many parents are sick of their children zoning out on their smart phones and bumping into walls as they navigate blindly around the house, few are aware of the real dangers lurking.
Facebook was founded in 2004, it began small and rapidly scaled up into a World dominating social media platform connecting tens of millions of people from all around the World. In its early days it was primarily used by students and adults on desktop computers, as technology rapidly advanced and smart phones began to dominate the industry the average age of users came down, and down.
Along the way further competing social media platforms were born, platforms which appealed even more so to the younger generations and were designed from the ground up for the new mobile generation. Instagram is probably the most popular at the moment among 10 -16 year old’s.
Though it cannot be argued that children of today are more communicative then ever before because of these technologies, it is also true that children of today are physically and emotionally less social then ever before. Social media is based solely around instant gratification, it satisfies the ego with likes and shares, it has the ability to make you feel popular or alone within mere minutes. It is also highly addictive and highly destructive, far more than you might think.
Before we get into the real life-endangering threats social media poses to our children we should take a look a video from Simon Sinek, in the video he explains how these platforms work and why they are so addictive:
The Silent Killer
So we have a highly social media addicted generation of children and young adults who because of their addictions have formed a reality of the World based on what their smart phone feeds them. This reality is vastly different from the real World, the one you see when you look up from your newsfeed and are faced with real person-to-person interactions.
The real World does not gratify with likes and comments, the real World is a very different place indeed.
But aside from the disconnect from real World reality, this social media-induced reality can be a painful one to be a part of. It is all about the self, how you look, what you say, what photo’s you share, how many followers you have, how many likes you have – which for some can mean an increased sense of popularity and others an increased sense of loneliness and inadequacy.
Jonathan Haidt is a Social psychologist at NYU-Stern and author of ‘The Righteous Mind’. He has been researching the affects of Social Media on what he has labelled Generation Z, the results of his findings are somewhat disturbing and show correlation across the board between the uprising of Social Media and the decline in mental health of this generation.
In this tweet he compares the self-harming admissions of boys to girls, as you can see the boys have little increase since the uprising of Social media. However, the girls show quite a different picture. The most shocking is that 10-14 year old girls have seen a 189% increase in self-harming between the years of 2009 and 2015.
But if your thinking boys escape the dangers of Social media, think again. Boys may not see an increase in self-harming but they do however seem to be increasingly more likely to resort to suicide, though girls once again are still in the higher risk band:
To get a better understanding of Haidt’s work we recommend you watch the following interview he does with Joe Rogan:
What Can We Do as Parents?
Though i’m sure many of you are continually trying to reduce how much time your children spend on their smart phones, whether or not you were aware of exactly how dangerous the addiction was or not, I think most parents know it cannot be good to be glued to a smart phone all day.
Firstly we should not be allowing our children to have smart phones until 16 if at all possible, I know personally this is a virtually impossible for most parents living in the Western hemisphere, so if you cannot hold on that long you need to have strict rules in place.
- No Internet devices in children’s bedrooms at night
- If they use social media they have to supply you with the password
- Speak with other parents and try to act as a community, its far easier to enforce restrictions when other parents are doing the same
- Give your children more freedom to socialise outside the house.
The most important thing is to be there for your children, look for signs of depression, increased anxiety, sudden increase in obsessive phone usage. It’s a tough World out there for Children and we have no idea whatsoever what its like, but it’s probably far worse than you can imagine.