It’s no secret that there is a lot of vulgarity, negativity, and false information on social media, but with lockdowns in place in most of the country, the use of social media is greatly increasing, allowing for more chances at exposure to the harmful parts of the medium. Social media has also been a catalyst for some good during this time, being a hub of information regarding health procedure, and helping kids get the essential exposure to their friends that they need, as they continue to get stuck inside.
Long after COVID-19 is done rearing its angry head, it should be a regular part of parenting to discuss the pros and cons of social media. With the current, unavoidable overexposure, inow is an important time to revisit some of the issues–good and bad—regarding your children’s social media use.
The sudden switch to homeschooling for a large percentage of U.S. students has had some pretty damning effects on the mental health of youngsters, including depression and anxiety. Kids who get used to a schedule (and adults, too), often find themselves experiencing mental anguish when that schedule is changed without any say of their own. This includes friend time, a very important social aspect of school.
When it comes to schedules, it’s important for mom and dad to help keep their kids on one, albeit a very different one, and friend time should still be a part of that schedule. This is where social media comes in as a good thing. Depression and anxiety can lead to a number of other things such as eating disorders, but scheduling virtual playtime, video chatting over Facebook and Instagram and even making TikTok videos from afar are all ways social media can act as a tool for social interaction in a time when true face-to-face hangouts are discouraged and sports and theatrical events are put on hold.
The Bad (and the Ugly)
Of course, with all good comes some bad, and cyberbullying has increased as kids’ usage of social media has increased during the COVID lockdowns. Being a positive voice for your youngsters who may be experiencing the negative effects of “friend” time online is important in helping them maintain a positive image and avoid the aforementioned depressive and anxious states.
If your kids feel pushed away from their regular social groups, they can look for new ones, and just as in real social circles, overly welcoming social media circles can be dangerous. Predatory acts as extreme as sex trafficking and terror recruiting have been linked to social media and need to be taken very seriously, especially with youngsters who may not be as accepted by their peer groups as others.
What You Can Do
It’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of the internet and social media. It is an enormous part of youngsters’ lives and should be as common a conversation as those about sports, schoolwork, and hobbies. Having your own social media and showing how to decipher fact from fiction and safe from harmful using your own examples resonates more than regurgitating facts and figures.
Setting limits on social media use is another successful means of limiting harmful exposure, but given the lockdown, allowing for more time than normal online is okay. Continuing conversations about what sites are used and what trends they are interested in on a regular basis can also help you keep in the loop, and ensuring they don’t share personal information with strangers online in the same way they wouldn’t share with a stranger on the street is equally as important.
If you do see red flags, make sure to truly listen to the “whys” as far as the reasons your kids may have ventured to an unsafe part of the internet or have “befriended” questionable characters. Ultimately, being a constant voice in their ears and always being there for them when they have trouble finding friends elsewhere is the best means of keeping steady tabs on the social media practices of your kids and keeping them safe from web-based harm.
This content is sponsored by Andrew Deen.
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