By Joe Farkus, NDG Contributing Writer
With more communication moving to virtual spaces, particularly among young people, more parents are expressing concern regarding the potential negative impact increased social media use can have on their teenage and adolescent children.
According to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA) published in 2017, 79 percent of parents claim their teens use social media. That same report also detailed how 69 percent of parents of teenage girls reported concerns over the heavy influence social media platforms have had on their child’s health and wellness. 39 percent of parents with teenage boys reported the same concerns.
Psychologists and family therapists are beginning to recommend parents restrict the time their children spend using social media, in conjunction with well-established and communicated rules when it comes to using technology generally. Many also suggest drawing a distinction for the teen between the unrealistic and manufactured images and lifestyles they might be exposed to online versus realistic expectations and values.
“Children are bombard with inauthentic images and then struggle with self-esteem because their truth does not reflect what they see,” Janice Taylor, creator and CEO of Mazu – a family-first messaging platform that gives parents a place to communicate with their children in a starter social media environment, told the North Dallas Gazette. “It amplifies bullying because it creates a false sense of separation between users.”
Various apps have been named in the fight to protect children from potentially negative and damaging social media experiences:
- GroupMe, where teens can send private messages easily hidden from their parents to users.
- IMVU, that allows teens to talk to strangers in random chat rooms.
- tbh, which allows users to anonymously respond to questions about their friends with often cruel and bullying response.
“You can’t protect your child if you don’t know what the dangers are or how they are interpreted from a child/teenager’s perspective,” said Taylor. “Parents need to be involved in their children’s lives, and that includes understanding what they’re experiencing on social media.”
“From there it’s about giving your child an opportunity for an open, honest conversation,” Taylor added, “[and] most importantly, cultivating an environment of respect and love.”