Question: I have been worried about my children’s obsession with social media recently. My daughter’s makeup must be done in the same way and with the same products as her current favorite Instagram influencer. Several times, I have walked by my son scrolling through Twitter and have been sexually explicit photos show up on his timeline. Should I be worried or is this the new normal?
Answer: Popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Tumblr tout millions of users, many of whom use them for hours every day. Though many parents and adults may be conditioned to only see the negatives of these sites and apps, research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has shown that social media usage has both beneficial and harmful outcomes.
Higher levels of subjective wellbeing have been reported among regular users of social media sites. (Furthermore, these social networks provide an extensive social support system for their users, as feedback can be received instantaneously and in amounts that may far outnumber the user’s actual social circle.) On the other hand, the breach of privacy and exposure to unsafe or inappropriate content has also been documented among social network users, especially among younger ones. One of the biggest problems created by social media is that of cyberbullying, which has been a contributing factor in suicides among younger-aged users.
With this in mind, you should not be afraid to take an active role in your child’s presence on social media. Especially for underage users, social media can be an inviting world of endless possibility. You should allow your child to partake in the thrill of social media while not totally giving them free rein. Using parental controls and filters on your child’s phone is not as dictatorial as your child may think and they will thank you for it in the long run.
As the parent, it is important that you are a role model, comporting yourself on social media in the same manner that you expect from your child. Set the example by posting vacation pictures or sharing funny dog videos but refrain from overuse and emphasize life outside of social media. Take your kids to the movies, go hiking, or even arrange a family reunion.