Protecting your children from the dark side of social media has become more important than ever, rather it’s a necessity now. Shielding your children from the negative effects of social media and making sure that they don’t go through anything traumatizing is the need of the hour now for most parents.
Key Points –
Children are generally more susceptible to social media's negative impact than adults.
Understanding an adolescent's developmental plight can help a parent implement strategies to assist their child.
Recognizing and validating a child's empathic acts may provide proof that he or she is a good and worthwhile person.
Social media is not going away, so protecting a child from its adverse effects is necessary. An awareness of a child’s developmental vulnerabilities and how they clash with the dark side of social media can help keep children safe.
Around the age of 11 or 12, a child’s involvement with friends intensifies. He or she spends more time interacting with peers and less time with family. Although this is normal and healthy, it exposes the child to more of the outside world. The child may also hold her friends’ opinions in high regard and strive to garner their approval.
The influence of friends and the need to be accepted on social media may make an adolescent vulnerable to a specific type of friend.
Historically, this kind of friend has been kind but exhibits a strong streak of narcissism in the adolescent years. Deceptive because she is well behaved in the presence of teachers, coaches, and parents, she saves her unscrupulous and cruel behaviors behind closed doors.
This teen tends to exile a friend with whom she is jealous and utilizes social media to do it. She intentionally excludes one friend from an event and posts dozens of pictures of the gathering on social media. The friend who is singled out and excluded is usually crushed. Unfortunately, the other friends in the group typically comply with the bully’s antics because if they balk, they will be the next to be excluded from the group.
The adolescent is abandoned by her friend group and if she speaks up is likely framed as “dramatic” and a “problem.” Losing a friend group in adolescence is a fate that often feels worse than death to an adolescent.
First, to combat this scenario, a parent can encourage the child to have multiple close friends in various friend groups. For example, a trusted friend on her track team, in her youth group, on her block, and at church. Maintaining close friendships in many areas of her life ensures she is protected because other friend groups will absorb her if she is excluded from one.
A parent who is proactive about encouraging a child to cultivate close relationships in different areas of her life may be extending a lifeline to that child in the teen years when social media is sometimes used as a weapon to hurt, bully, and exclude.
In addition to the development of strong peer relationships in the adolescent years, increased independence is also developmentally appropriate. Yet, this developmental stage creates mild vulnerability in a child on social media.
New autonomy spurs an adolescent to think about who she is in relationship to the world. Because she is attempting to discern who she is, she naturally compares herself to others to help her sort it out. Although these comparisons rarely help because there is always someone prettier, smarter, richer, and more popular on social media, it is a common and understandable tendency in the teen years.
A second way to help an adolescent struggling with social media, who may be constantly comparing herself to others, is to educate her on the superficiality of social media. It is a one-dimensional medium, packed with smoke and mirrors which allow people to present themselves as “perfect.”