Social media can be a brilliant way for children to keep in touch with their friends, but if used unsupervised it can pose very serious risks. It’s vital that parents keep themselves informed about the potential dangers of social media so they can coach their kids on how to navigate it safely. Here are three reasons why it’s so important to teach social media safety to children.
1. Online grooming is on the rise
Online grooming crimes increased by 80% between 2018 and 2022. Snapchat was the most-used platform by groomers, with 33% of offenses taking place there. Meta-owned platforms, which include Facebook and Instagram, were used in 38% of grooming offenses. Although these apps pose the highest risks, grooming offenses were recorded across 70 different apps and games meaning that children are at risk on any social media platform or online games. As a result, it’s vital for parents to teach online safety in such a way that children can apply it to any platform. It’s also important that parents keep track of the apps their kids are using so that they can learn about the unique risks of each themselves.
2. Social media can be harmful to mental health
Depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness are all common risks of excessive social media use. In fact, teens who use social media for more than two hours each day are more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor. There are lots of reasons why social media can harm mental health. A primary reason is that it can expose teens to manipulated content that generates unrealistic beauty standards and makes them feel inadequate. Cyberbullying is another serious risk of social media use, and teens’ self-esteem and confidence can be very negatively impacted by critical or threatening messages from both strangers or people known to them. It’s also possible for teens to overuse social media or obsess over it to the point that it interferes with their friendships, family life, schoolwork, hobbies and sleep schedule. Therefore, it’s important to teach kids the importance of limiting the time they spend on social media. You should also show them how to curate their feeds with content that uplifts and inspires them, and how to handle cyberbullying and harassment.
3. Teens can easily access inappropriate and hateful content on social media
Violent, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate content can easily work its way into social media feeds before being reported to moderators and removed. When children see age-inappropriate content they may find it distressing. Even worse, they could be influenced to emulate inappropriate behaviour that could harm them. It’s also possible for teens to be exposed to extreme or hateful viewpoints that could negatively impact their own beliefs and values. Social media algorithms monitor the content that users engage with and show similar content in their feeds, meaning that if your teen watches, likes or comments on hateful content, they’re likely to see more of the same. Hate groups use this to their advantage to spread their harmful messages and radicalize impressionable young people.
Teach social media safety to protect children and teens
There are many risks associated with social media sites, but that doesn’t mean kids should be banned from using them. By teaching them how to use social media safely, you can protect them against harm and ensure that they come to you for advice should they ever run into any problems.
– Article Contribution by Laura Jones
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