A recent news of a popular social media teen star commiting suicide made me think about the evils of social media and inspired this post
What kind of an influence can cause a sixteen year old to end her life? When I was looking up this topic I could see innumerable research studies that have consistently shown direct correlation between social media usage by teens and anxiety, depression, attention deficit, sleep deprivation and mood related issues.
Trust me on this, this post applies as much to adults as it applies to teens. I believe more and more adults today have still not outgrown the teenage mindset. In the race to stay young at heart, many of us are far from intellectual maturity.
This is my attempt to persuade the parents to think again on how they should approach the topic of social media, themselves and for their children.
Following are some of the evils that can plague you and your children is we take social media to be a harmless pastime:
Not just adults but also teens feel emotionally invested in their social media accounts. There is a constant impatience to look at notifications and also to respond to messages and posts. Besides scoial media images constantly reinforce the illusion that they are incomplete, imperfect and inadequate and they need to constantly strive to improve their acceptance and status in the circle. This impatience causes stress
Not only do they feel pressure to respond quickly online, but they also feel pressure to have perfect photos and well-written posts. all of which can cause a great deal of anxiety. In fact, some studies have found that the larger a teen’s social circle online the more anxiety they feel about keeping up with everything online.
It takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with the unspoken rules and culture of each social media platform. As a result, this puts additional pressure on teens, which can cause feelings of anxiety.
The mobile and tablet screens don’t let the transition from day to night time happen. Hearing screens trick the mind into thinking there is still so much more I am missing out and yet to do on social media. The sleep time takes a beating and body is not able to fully rest and restore health in the morning.
Sleep deprivation causes low immunity, mood disorders, ADD, mindless eating. Research also shows girls are more prone to sleep deprivation due to use of social media on phones than boys. It is no wonder then than many children constantly complain of boredom and tiredness.
Jealousy and envy are the most fundamental emotions that social media constantly stirs in adults and teens alike. The selective display of positive moments completely overlooking, making and even evading the negative emotions and experiences makes one feel that the grass is always greener on the other side- a side which is forever out of one’s reach.
I believe these three reasons are good enough to dissuade any sensible parent from encouraging use of social media for themselves as well as their children.
So what can we do as parents? Here are some suggestions that I could gather that can help us wean ourselves and our children away from children. I have used the 4 Ds framework that my own spiritual teacher taught me and applied it to social media:
- Discrimination: Educate children how social media works, why it exists and how people make money out of it. It’s all clearly visible and verifiable and they are smart enough to understand. At the same time listen to them and try understanding their motivations and concerns. Never humiliate them among their peers- it will have the exact opposite impact.
- Discipline: Draw clear boundaries on what children are allowed and not allowed to do on digital media. They must clearly understand where the boundary lies. This can be in terms of setting screen time limits, applying child setting to media platforms and also knowing what they actually do on digital platforms.
- Desire: Our ability to desire in thousands of ways is one the factors that makes us unique as humans. And desire needs to be cultivated and tended to from a young age. It is important to direct the minds of our young ones towards positive, healthy and fulfilling pursuits. Nudge them to desire for real playtime with friends, learning activities that engage their body-mind-intelligence together or doing a course that stretches over a few weeks to give them a certain skill and certification.
- Dispassion: This does not mean we teach ourselves and our children to be detached and become disinterested in things. This only means that we teach them to recognize when something becomes a binding attachment- that demands engagement even at the cost their well-being and growth. If we can see when an activity starts controlling us rather than us controlling them. This will deter them from addictions even when we are no longer around as parents to guide them.
These are some pointers that we can use ourselves to deal with the risks of social media and screen addiction. The best way is to set an example to our children by following ourselves what we teach. This is why I consciously stepped out of Facebook, instagram and other such apps many years back. Trust me you will not miss out on anything of significance in life.
All the best!