Social Media for Kids: Healthy Practices to Teach and Implement

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Social Media for Kids

Social Media for Kids: Healthy Practices to Teach and Implement

Swetha Prasanna 01 Apr 2022

Social media might be an exciting place. To share, to learn and stay connected. Though this sounds incredibly right, things may go haywire in a split second, if users are not careful. Sharing personal information or inappropriate pictures even to closest friends on social media can lead to unimaginable consequences. Unsurprisingly, the question “how to ensure safety on social media for kids?” haunts every responsible parent.

As we move below, we will take a closer view into why is social media bad for kids and the effective practices that ensure social media safety for kids.

Why is social media bad for kids?

Social media is a technology designed to help connect people and beat loneliness. It takes one closer to the global happenings and offers a platform to share their thoughts freely and creatively.

On the flip side, the downsides of social media are many. Experts at UCLA indicate that this technology which is meant to connect people can trigger a sense of aloofness and depression.

To its worst, social media can be the culprit for depression and anxiety in children, due to its notoriety of adding peer pressure and pushing children towards unhealthy comparisons.

Another main cause of concern about children being a part of social media is the leakage of personal information.

The features of these platforms such as Likes and Comments can create a temporary sense of achievement, more so in children who are not even ready to understand the world. This adrenaline rush can push them to share personal information and sensitive data that perpetrators can misuse in myriad possible ways.

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Effects of social media on children

The tender minds of children cannot grasp the harm that hides behind the likes and comments on social platforms. Excessive or unmonitored usage of social media for kids can lead to irrevocable harmful effects on children as below:

Social concerns

Spending excessive time connecting and chatting with virtual friends can deprive the scope and interest to connect with people in real social life.

Children might want to make themselves aloof from their daily routine and spend alone chatting and communicating with their virtual contacts.

In the long run, this can create serious concerns about their interpersonal and social skills.

Psychological concerns

Everyone wants to display their bright side of life on social media. As a result, scrolling through their feeds gives children the impression that everyone around them is happier, leading dream-like lives! This can create dissatisfaction with their life, family and everything they are gifted with.

Negative emotions such as envy, inadequacy, self-doubt, and dissatisfaction take no time to creep into tender minds. Studies prove that children are prone to attention disorders, depression and anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

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Unforeseen dangers

Sharing personal information such as full names, date of birth, parent details, addresses and pictures is harmful to children in unforeseen ways.

While identity theft is one potential side effect of such actions, such sensitive information when landed in the hands of paedophiles and trafficking gangs can lead to grave consequences.

Physical health concerns

Childhood and adolescence are the age when the body needs good exercise to grow healthily. Addiction to social media can create a sense of aversion towards getting physical activity. Children might not be keen to stay active in the form of playing, helping at home, spending time with nature and family, etc.  Such a lack of physical activity can cause obesity and hormonal disorders in children.

Cyberbullying

Comments on the shares can be both exciting and depressing. While positive comments encourage children, negative comments can take a toll on their minds. Social media bullies can exacerbate the insecurities in children with their humiliating comments.

Horrifyingly, though the source of impact is digital, the effects are seen in real-time. Experts remind us of instances where children who were cyber-bullied turned into drug and alcohol addicts, or even to suicide in extreme cases.

How to teach social media safety to kids?

Social media is a part of technology that children of today will have to live tomorrow at a certain point in their lives. Thus, banning social media for kids or strictly keeping them away from it might trigger more curiosity in their little minds.

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Here’s where parents need to play safe and teach the secure practices of social media for kids tactically.

#1: Be a role model

Parents are the role models to children. Parents intending to limit the social media exposure of their children must implement it first.

To get started, explain to children why social media is bad for kids and encourage them to stay away from it as much as possible.

Spend the least possible time on social media and allot maximum time for family inculcating habits like reading, gardening, exercising, playing sports and encouraging academic and extra-academic activities in children.

#2: Limit screen time

With changing modes of education and learning, screen time is a part of children’s daily routine.

Activities such as connecting with friends over small talk, seeking the internet help for homework, etc. can necessitate children to spend time online.

Hence, instead of fully eliminating the exposure to the internet and digital screens, limit the screen time for children. Explain to them why too much internet usage and screen time can be harmful and encourage them to pursue real-time activities.

#3:Give uncompromising instructions

If your children are of age where they can create social media accounts, give them stern instructions about how much information sharing is too much on social media.

  • Encourage them to not share personal details or intimate pictures with anyone, including the trusted ones and never to strangers.
  • Warn them of imposters that create fake profiles and lure children into getting favours done.
  • Teach them how to make their accounts ‘most private’ and the safety features of the platform.
  • Educate them how offers advocating freebies and discounts can be malicious and pose risks if they click on such enticing ads, links and images.
  • Explain to them the risks of sharing live locations and check-ins and the need for privacy to stay safe.

#4: Encourage open communication

Healthy and open communication is a solid foundation for child-parent relationship. Especially while helping your child to deal with sensitive situations like social media misuse, encouraging open communication can instil the trust your child needs to cope with the situation.

#5: Monitor their behaviour

Children who are under the extremely negative impact of social media display certain anomalies in their behaviour.

Aggression, self-doubt, anorexia, hiding their actions from friends and family, lack of focus on studies and daily routine, not displaying interest in social life are some signs that a child is negatively impacted by social media.

Parents and elders at home must hence keep a constant watch on their actions and words to notice any slightest signs of becoming social media victims. 

#6: Get familiarized with the platforms

With new platforms paving their way into social media, parents must get themselves familiarized with various social media platforms. Doing so helps them to understand their features, terminology, and potential risks.

#7: Encourage safe browsing

Technology can help to overcome cyber risks. Parents can make use of safe browsing features on their digital devices. Hide the location by turning off the Location Services.

In addition, the measures below help to monitor children’s online activity:

  • Place the computer in a common area such that the screen is visible to everyone in the home. This can curb their temptation to visit malicious sites and helps them experience safe browsing.
  • Seek the credentials of your child’s social media accounts. Before that make them understand why is social media bad for kids. Build trust in them that it is for their safety, but not to monitor their activities without their permission.
  • If your child insists on not sharing the credentials, ask them to allow you to join their network as a friend. This is a less intrusive way to monitor your child’s activities and friends.

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Role of schools in social media safety for children

As imperative as it turns out to be, schools and teachers have their role to play in educating why is social media bad for kids. Many schools already pose strict restrictions about the usage of mobiles and digital devices in campus.

In addition, the following measures from teachers and schools can ensure social media safety for kids:

  • Conduct sessions to teach social media awareness to students by experts from psychologists and police departments.
  • Counsel parents about the necessity to create social media awareness for students by sharing actionable tips and plan to keep the children safe on social media.
  • Report any abnormalities in the child’s behaviour to parents as soon as they notice any, and work together to help the child recover.

Social media safety for kids: Takeaways

With its various benefits of connecting children with friends and family and giving them exposure to the outside world, social media can benefit children in several ways. To reap the advantage, it is vital to teach them the best practices of safe social media usage. This responsibility lies equally on parents and schools. While parents need to play role models, schools must take provide the necessary social media awareness for students. Together, they can help children to have happier and safer social media usage.

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