How to protect your kids from social media’s effects on mental health
Ever since social media debuted in 1997, it has enjoyed widespread popularity, including among kids. Social media use is now at an all-time high, and children are accessing platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat at younger and younger ages.
In the U.S., 95% of teenagers use at least one social media platform; among tweens ages 9-12, 38% use social media – and that has experts alarmed. Convincing your child to give it up is about as likely as getting them to choose broccoli over ice cream, but there are steps you can take to protect your kids from the harmful impacts of social media.
Surgeon General’s advisory highlights social media concerns
In May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General released a document acknowledging the complex relationship between social media and young people’s mental health, shining the spotlight on some concerning risks. Dr. Vivek Murthy’s advisory, titled Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health, highlighted the growing body of evidence linking social media use to negative impacts on children’s and adolescents’ mental health.
Acknowledging that social media can offer opportunities for connection and community, Dr. Murthy concluded that the cons more than outweigh the pros. Research suggests increased use is associated with anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and suicidal ideation among youth.
Social media platforms can expose young people to cyberbullying, unrealistic beauty standards, hate speech, misinformation, harmful stereotypes, and graphic imagery. These can negatively impact their self-esteem, body image, and mental health. The addictive nature of social media often displaces real-world relationships and healthy activities, further impacting mental well-being.
As concerning as the report is, there are steps we can all take to mitigate the negative impacts of social media.
Multi-faceted approach addresses issues
The Surgeon General’s report wasn’t all doom and gloom. The advisory outlines a multi-pronged approach to address these concerns, calling for collaboration between various stakeholders to create a safer and healthier digital environment for young people. The report lists actions for policymakers, social media developers, and researchers, and here are the actions it recommends for families:
- Families: Create a family media plan, set healthy boundaries for social media use, foster open communication about online safety, and encourage real-world activities and relationships.
- Children and Adolescents: Seek help when needed, create boundaries to balance online and offline activities, be cautious about what you share, and protect yourself and others.
Use Ultimate Wi-Fi to keep your kids safe
Golden West’s Ultimate Wi-Fi helps address these issues by offering advanced parental controls that help you manage your kids’ internet use. With Ultimate Wi-Fi you can:
- Manage screen time for your family’s connected devices.
- Monitor website and app usage by person and/or device.
- Create internet access schedules for each family member.
- Filter out inappropriate and explicit content.
- Block entire internet categories, apps, and websites.
- Filter out inappropriate websites and search results.
Golden West Ultimate Wi-Fi provides families with a safer, more secure, and manageable home network experience. Think of it as an all-in-one, peace of mind, Wi-Fi control solution.
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