Over the past few years, the world has been swept away with social media. As we become knowledge rich but time poor I think it’s evident that the vast majority of us are guilty of allowing it to play a key part in our day-to-day lives. This story is also becoming true for our children but is this healthy or should we start to be concerned? Do we need to protect our children or should we allow them to explore the world through their devices? Read on for a helpful guide that will help you gain a better understanding of the pros, cons and risks associated with social media use amongst children.

The risks

Internet addiction is a very real risk which is largely fuelled by sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Put simply, it is a behaviour exhibited by both children and adults who excessively use the internet to the point that it interferes with their everyday lives. Studies have shown that internet addiction can result in obsessive compulsive tendencies, social anxiety, hyperactivity and anger. As such, it’s important to monitor the screen time of your children and make sure that they are engaging in a healthy balance of internet usage and real life activities. However, if you’re finding it difficult to keep track your child’s internet habits, it could be time to enlist the help of a daily or live-in nanny who will be able to ensure that your child has a healthy relationship with social media.


The upsides

Despite widespread criticism, social media is all about socialising. As such, moderate use can have a positive effect on the development of a child’s social skills. Kids who are shy or suffer from social anxiety can use their accounts as a way of integrating themselves with their peers in a way that is easy and unintimidating. This can then act as a stepping stone for real life interaction and friendship. Some studies have even shown that the presence of an online peer group can help relieve stress and offer kids an outlet to express feelings and emotions that they would not feel comfortable articulating in real life. Social media is also a great way for kids to keep in touch with friends and family who do not live nearby. From old primary school best friends to grandparents living on the other side of the country, social media is a great way for children to stay connected.

The downsides

Facebook is one of the most powerful communication tools on the planet. Yet, it is clear that most of the news feeds and posted albums are predictively positive. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this it is important to consider the potential dangers associated with Facebook, and social media in general. Children are far less emotionally stable than adults and a constant stream of positivity can cause feelings of helplessness, jealously and inferiority when their live does not live up to those of their peers. In the world of social media science, this is referred to as ‘Facebook depression.’ Social media also makes it easier for children to bully or be bullied. Fortunately, as society’s awareness increases there is an increasing wealth of advice out there – Parents.com is just one example. Another serious risk is the presence of online predators that use social media sites to communicate with children in an inappropriate manner.   

Girl with mobile image by Shutterstock. 

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