There is plenty of information online (over 125 million articles!) that talks about children’s social media addiction. Although it is widespread problem, children (especially teenagers) are more prone to addiction. This guide gives parents tips to spot the addiction and deal with it before the situation gets worse.
Why is social media so addictive?
A recent Pew Research Center study reported that 24% of teens are online constantly and that 92% of teens spend an average of 3 hours/day each day. (According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the maximum screen time, including TVs and computers, should not exceed 2 hours a day.)
- Social media is readily available. There are numerous gadgets that easily connect to the Internet from almost anywhere at any given time.
- Many children prefer to turn to social media for comfort and distraction rather than discuss their problems with parents (e.g., poor performance in school, decisions about the future, problems with relationships).
- The online platforms create an illusion of being constantly present and acknowledged by peers which, in turn, helps the kids feel adequate and safe. This is of special concern for those children who have low self-esteem.
What are the risks of too much social media?
- Excessive use of social media can impact your child’s mental health. It often becomes difficult for children to differentiate between offline reality and the virtual world.
- There may be changes in their attitudes toward everyday activities and real-life communication.
- Their physical health may suffer with poor diet, obesity, vision issues, sleep disturbance, backaches, and neck strains.
- It may impair learning and academic progress.
- Other negative factors include exposure to mature and inappropriate content, being a victim of cyberbullying, and an encounter with online predators, scammers, and cybercriminals.
How do you know if your child is addicted to social media?
Several signs serve as general guidelines to determine if your child has a social media addiction.
- Being irritable and tired. If your child is spending hours in front of a computer screen or on the phone, their emotions and physical well-being will be impacted.
- Checking websites often. If your child is doing their chores, homework, or eating meals as quickly as possible to then look at a social media site, this is a red flag.
- Continuously searching for friends. Some children feel that the number of Facebook friends is an indicator of their popularity. Be wary of a constant need for children to be preoccupied with getting likes and followers on Facebook.
- Influencing education. If it is hard for them to concentrate on their schoolwork because of the distractions of social networking sites, look closer to see how much time they are spending online.
- Interfering with real-life communications. If your child is always choosing to communicate via online methods as opposed to face-to-face, then address the issue. Children often find it easy to communicate online: they can have a long response time and their facial expressions don’t reveal their true emotions.
- Sharing too much information. Are they sharing private details and an excessive number of photos on various platforms? The need of constant social approval is a cause of concern.
- Withdrawing. Do you see your child withdrawing from the activities and interests they once enjoyed? This is a common side-effect of addiction.
What can you as a parent do to address the issue?
A natural reaction is to outlaw the Internet. But this is not the best solution. Social media sites help kids to explore new things, provide general knowledge, and give a platform to showcase talents and hobbies. Children need to keep in touch with their friends, and social media helps to build their social interaction and their communication.
However, children must learn how to balance the time spent online with their daily lives. You can try to bring a better balance into their lives.
- Check into purchasing a monitoring tool. Many of these tools can inform you of your child’s use via keystrokes, website history, received messages, apps downloaded, etc. Some of these apps are paid and some are free services. Make sure to be upfront with your child and inform them of regulating their social media and how you want to prevent them from social media harm. If they are using any inappropriate apps, remove them. You can add your children to your social media accounts so that you know about their activities.
- Consult a professional if you can’t break your child’s addiction cycle. Talk to your family doctor for a referral.
- Encourage and promote different hobbies, outings with friends, events, and family activities.
- Establish boundaries for social media use. Talk to your kids about what to share on social media. Have consequences if they break the rules.
- Have regular conversations with your child regarding the negative effects of constantly being online. Explain the precautions they should take to be safe. They should alert you if anyone is using inappropriate content or if there is an intention to harm.
- Have your child keep their devices in an open place so you can monitor if needed. When using mobile phones, tablets, and laptops to access the Internet, they should be told to use them only on secure sites in open areas.
- Limit use. Set a rule for device usage. (Example, one hour after they complete their homework.) Don’t allow the use of cell phones at mealtimes or bedtime.
- Set up privacy settings to limit who sends messages to your child and who can be friends with them. You can also restrict users from accessing your child’s details. Check the data security properties of the apps to see if the personal information remains private and not accessible to the public.
Addiction to social media is a real problem for children today. As a parent, it is essential to be watchful for any number of symptoms that may indicate social media addiction so it can be remedied as soon as possible.