The negative effects of social media have been much discussed as of late, thanks to the recently released documentary on Netflix, “The Social Dilemma.”
The documentary argues that while platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have at times been used to facilitate social movements and meaningful change, they can also make people more anxious, polarized, and inclined to believe misinformation. What’s more, according to the documentary, these apps are structured to make their users obsessed with them.
As many parents know, children can be susceptible to the most common pitfalls of social media, but there are some key steps that they can take to help ensure that children’s usage remains balanced, healthy and safe:
• Sorting fact from fiction: Information about the world is often delivered via social media tools. Unfortunately, much of that content is actually misinformation. Parents can help stem the tide of “fake news” by teaching kids how to sort fact from fiction and pointing them in the direction of trusted sources of information.
• Privacy measures: An enormous amount of data is gathered by social media companies. Parents should teach kids to be wary of sharing private information and opinions online. They can also add privacy settings to children’s profiles to ensure they are connected only to their friends and family.
• Social media and feelings: Social media usage can be an emotional roller coaster. Parents should consider having a conversation with children about the way social media makes them feel. As part of this discussion, parents can remind kids that while “likes” and nice comments may make them feel good, it’s important not to rely too heavily on social media for emotional validation or real connection with friends. Unfortunately, cyberbullies and online “trolls” are active social media users, too, making social media apps a sometimes unfriendly place.
• Monitoring usage: New tools are helping parents seamlessly monitor social media usage and protect kids from unsafe content. In fact, over 1.2 million families use the screen time management solution, OurPact. The app, which allows parents to block or limit app access automatically, gives families the flexibility to set schedules for usage around recurring activities like school and bedtime, keeping access well-balanced. Parents can even view screenshots of kids’ digital activity. Available at the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, parents can also sign up for an account at www.ourpact.com.
While the ever-evolving social media landscape can make it difficult for adults to keep up with the way their children are interacting with these platforms, parents can help protect their kids by communicating regularly and by using new tools.
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