Impact of social media on child’s mental health and wellness

94.8 per cent of 15-year-olds in the UK used social media before or after school – slightly above the OECD average, the EPI (Education Policy Institute) Report says. Other surveys voice the opinion that bingeing on social media by kids is as bad as junk food. 

kid’s online activities

Present generation kids are highly active in one or more than social media platforms and remain hooked to them for hours. It has turned out to be a sort of addiction when they care more on online interactions and remain oblivious about the real-time happenings.

Research from the Childwise Firm reveals the following:

  • Kids aged 5-15 years almost spend 15 hours online per week.
  • Even the 3-4 year olds are not lagging behind. Their online presence has increased from 6 hours 48 minutes to 8 hours and 18 minutes per week.
  • Kids aged 12-15 years are found to spend more than 20 hours online per week.

Such is the level of attraction or addiction whatever term we assign!

Is it only the sheer wastage of time that needs to be taken care of or are there other hidden threats that may turn out to be detrimental in future? Are kids gaining anything from this social media engagement? It is high time we explore this.

In a previous survey conducted by NSPCC suggested that about 80% kids felt unsafe to some extent while engaging with social media. Why this concern if everything is fine with online social media?

Observing the sharp rise in online social engagement among kids, The Education Policy Institute (EPI), UK has come up with an extensive research highlighting its pros and cons.

All is not bad with Social media but moderation is the key

mother and daughter on social media

The EPI report does take into consideration the beneficial aspects of kids taking to social media. It improves their online communication and social skills and helps in building their resilience. Even those with mental problems can have easy access to help through social media channels and networks. Many online support groups are helping these mentally disturbed kids online.

Keeping in pace with the advancement of digital technology, equipping the present generation kids with important tools is important. Since kids are smart pickers, they can get quick access to solutions in times of distress.

Moreover, many online forums through the popular social media channels promote creativity, and healthy engagement especially in career development and studies providing updated information, which is indeed helpful. But the problem starts with overusing or misusing things.

Emily Frith, director of Mental Health of EPI stresses on the benefits of online social media on kids provided they are used in moderation. The objective of this research is to build resilience among the kids equipping them with proper knowledge and skills to help them manage the risks associated with online socialization.

Understanding the risks and effects of excessive online social media engagement:

Experts from Child Mind Institute say kids are growing up with more anxiety and less self-esteem.

Shunning physical activities and face-to-face interaction:

 physical activities

Firstly, consider the health aspect.  You won’t be surprised if you find your kid online even in the wee hours of the night. These young people prefer to drift in the virtual world more than exploring what reality has on offer for them.

This causes sleep disturbances, poor concentration in studies and often emotionally disturbed. Less physical activity due to prolonged social media engagement paves the way for childhood obesity and mental disturbance. Naturally, their performance in school, colleges and workplace deteriorate.

Increased chances of cyber bully:

cyber bully

As per EPI Report, more than 37.3% of 15-year aged UK teens are classified as ‘extreme internet users’ spending 6+ average hours on net per day. Among them, 17.8% are more likely to be bullied than the non-extensive internet users.

The indirect messaging tool gives the kids the leverage to text anything which one could never dream of saying in a face-to-face interaction. In absence of a system to police the online activities, how easy it is to tarnish one’s image from an anonymous account.

This has become a route to execute vengeance against someone with whom a relation of enmity has developed by the juvenile delinquent. This is turning out to be a serious concern as the juveniles could not be booked under the law.

Fuelling the criminal instincts:

Fuelling the criminal instinct

Social networking inspires criminal instincts in juveniles. What you dared not to do with your identity being exposed can be done with an anonymous identity. There are several instances of uploading fake identities in these networking sites, sending friend requests with a motive of posting obscene communications.

Pictures, posts, uploads can be copied and saved with the criminal intention of blackmailing someone. It is exactly what many of the younger generations are doing currently. Social media is becoming a way of perverted sexual gratification which would otherwise have not been possible in reality where the fear of getting caught and punished acts as a controlling factor.

Obscene stories, lewd role playing and chatting online for hours drifting on unproductive and unhealthy topics have turned rampant among the kids with the process of getting registered with a virtual online account turning easy.

In this social networking spree, many upload their very personal information which should have been kept a secret. Unknown people with unknown motives have a ready access to these and can result in disastrous consequences.

Building fake online relationships:

fake online relationships

Quality life has been sacrificed at the altar of the virtual world that offers negative entertainment and an escape from reality. News of criminal offences and suicides resulting from failed online love affairs are regularly catching our attention.

Unhealthy comparison rules instead of healthy competition:

Social media platform

Social media platforms are great for showing off anything you wish to. Kids are also doing the same similar to adults. They may show off their possessions, activities and achievements triggering the demon of jealousy in the minds of their peers.

Thus, the seeds of social networking crimes are planted. Competition among peers for having the highest number of Facebook friends or Twitter followings takes a priority. Healthy competition in school and sports performances takes a back seat.

It will not be surprising in days to come when the world will be populated by adults who have spent their youth in unproductive social networking instead of spending precious time nurturing socially beneficial friendships and acquaintances.

By that time they may have bullied or abused countless innocent people online through fake online social media acquaintances. If this is not checked, the future generation will fail to understand the value of relationships accepting the positives and negatives of the friends or partners spiritedly.

Well, taking cognizance of the above, the time is high to grow a resilient generation using social media in a controlled manner. The responsibility is collective where the social media organizations, schools and parents need to do their bit.

Dr Prem Jagyasi (c)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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