Call us on: 07733 274 522 or 07920 501 141
Call us on: 07733 274 522 or 07920 501 141

Toxic social media

Time spent reading posts on social media can leave users feeling worse about themselves.

– So says Facebook.

Letting children use iPhones can lead to an addiction that has negative consequences.

-So believe two major investors in Apple, the smartphone manufacturer.

Spending too much time online can expose children to ‘significant emotional risk’.

-So claims the UK’s Children’s Commissioner.

The picture here is a bleak one. It isn’t just us doing the painting.

We think there is a groundswell here. The fact that concerns are beginning to emanate from those most invested in the technologies under scrutiny, the social media companies and smartphone and device developers, cannot be anything other than weighty.

Just prior to Christmas, in response to research carried out in Michigan, Facebook themselves tackled the question Is spending time on social media bad for us?

The conclusions reached were surprising.

“As parents, [we] worry about our kids’ screen time and what ‘connection’ will mean in 15 years,” wrote David Ginsburg, Facebook’s director of research, and Moira Burke, a research scientist at the social media company. “We also worry about spending too much time on our phones when we should be paying attention to our families.”

Expanding on research suggesting young people who spend time reading posts end up feeling worse than peers who use the network to talk to friends or publish their own updates, Facebook talked about ‘negative social comparisons’ and the impact that ‘curated and flattering’ posts can have on users.

“We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run,” Facebook wrote. “We agree that these are critically-important questions and we all have a lot more to learn.”

Many things here concern us – as professionals and as parents – although the fact that Facebook have confronted the issues raised in the Michigan research should be taken as a positive.

That said, reports that a new Facebook service aimed at children as young as six is to be launched in the United States suggests significant challenges lie ahead.

That’s one for the future but at present, children under 13 shouldn’t be using social media. That being the case, it’s important that parents and adults take responsibility, monitor children’s online activities and enforce the rules.

You might not be popular with your children, but it’s clearly the right thing.

Consider the Children’s Commissioner’s report, released in recent days, that spoke about the ‘significant emotional risk’ that social media poses, about 10 to 12-year-olds anxious about their online image, about children trying to ‘keep up appearances’ and being ‘addicted to likes’ as a form of social validation.

Does this sound healthy? Is it what you want for YOUR children?

Suggesting that the social media companies are not doing enough to prevent under-13s from using their services, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, said: “I’m worried that many children are starting secondary school ill equipped to cope with the sudden demands of social media as their world expands.”

This strikes a chord with us and tallies with a great deal of the issues that we encounter here.

Chasing likes and seeking validation. Keeping up appearances and making social comparisons. Feeling bad about oneself, anxious, worried and addicted. Posts from peers (and sometimes, even worse, from celebrities) undermining children’s views of themselves.

Social media can be so very problematic and, whilst Facebook might find themselves in the firing line, other networks can cause even greater issues. Instagram and Snapchat spring to mind.

Now, with many children having received new gadgets and devices for Christmas, is an opportune time to shine a light on this and to continue to push for greater understanding and health limits.

Read up. Think it through. Take responsibility.

Latest News

Check back regularly for the latest news from Child Psychiatry UK.

Archives