More and more, students are gaining access to social media and devices at a younger age. According to research, 85% of parents with teenage children ages 13-17 report that their child have a social networking profile. While social media can be used positively as a tool to help with college admissions, career opportunities, and creating an online resume — more often students are making choices on social media that can have a negative impact on their future. In order for social media to be used in a positive way it’s imperative that parents and educators teach students about the effects of social media.
So, we asked 5 experts to share some of the negative effects of social media and how parents can teach students to have a healthy relationship with technology.
1. Social media can negatively affect students’ college and career opportunitiesJonas Sickler, ReputationManagement.com, @RepMgmt_com
The news says that teens are addicted to social media, and parents yell at their kids to unplug, but the real danger teens face with social media may not turn up until later in their lives—when they’re applying for college or looking for a job. So how can parents help their kids?
Parents should realize that their kids are already using social media. By attempting to restrict social media use, parents risk both the safety and online reputation of their children who will use the technology without the crucial guidance needed to keep them safe.
Even adults have a hard time navigating and understanding the privacy settings on their social media accounts, but we must make an effort to teach your kids how to properly configure aggressive privacy settings.
Public WiFi is dangerous. Parents must teach their kids never to send passwords or sensitive information when on free wifi networks. As expensive as it is to buy more data, it may be worth the cost to keep your kids off public WiFi networks.
2. Schedule social media time for studentsLesley Vos, PlagiarismCheck, @LesleyVos
A lack of literacy and interpersonal skills are some of the most negative effects of social media. Teens know how to find and contact people online but fail to build effective communication offline. Constitution of social interaction breaks, the importance of face-to-face contacts diminishes, literacy collapses (poor spelling and grammar, no argumentation, and inability to put ideas into words are far from all consequences here), and teens simply don’t learn to build relationships. What to do? Schedule “social media” time, encourage offline communication with friends, delete social media apps from a phone, and forget about gadgets once you go to bed.
3. Blue light emitted from screens can cause teens to lose sleepJosh Ochs, SmartSocial, @JoshOchs
Teens are notorious for staying glued to their devices late into the night. As a result, teens might not be getting enough sleep for optimal alertness and concentration during the day. Also, there’s another factor that might be causing all of us to be losing sleep: blue light emitting from our electronic screens. The light from our screens can suppress melatonin—a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles—and increase alertness (which is great in some circumstances, but not so much if you’re trying to sleep).
Limiting screen time at night is great in theory but can be hard to enforce. So, if you’re struggling to limit screen time at night, consider using these alternatives to unplugging all the screens in your house after dark:
- Wear “blue blocker” glasses before bed
- Use warm-light light bulbs
- Enable the Night Shift feature on iOS devices
4. Interacting on social media can cause students to lose social skillsHeidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT
Social media can become an obsession and students can start to forget what’s most important in life. How often do we see a family out to dinner and everyone is on their mobile devices? The concern is that tweens and teens are so used to interacting with their friends on social media the importance of face-to-face interactions may start to get lost, and they might start to lose (or never learn) some of these social skills. Also, on social media people are often just putting their “best face” out into the world, meaning that people can see someone at an event having fun, but what’s really going on with them at a deeper level gets lost unless you see them or talk to them outside of the social media world.
Parents need to lead by example and set parameters around social media use. If you don’t want you child on technology all the time, then you need to model this behavior for them. Don’t use your phone while driving, plug your phone in when you get home and ignore it, and read on a separate device that doesn’t have all your social media apps on it. Also, start setting boundaries early/when they are young with technology and your children, and prepare for some push back. Our kids get one hour a day on their devices once all homework and chores are complete, they set a timer and when it’s done it’s done. They plug their devices in downstairs, and yes, we all have old fashioned alarm clocks that we use to wake up in the mornings! We are a little more lax on vacation when we’re in the car or on an airplane traveling, but when we’re out-and-about visiting people or seeing new things, all technology is put away so we can all enjoy the present moment together.
5. Social media encourages students to chase perfectionDaniel Patterson, Patterson Perspective Inc., @cdmveep
Some negative effects of social media include:
- Establishing an over-reliance on 3rd parties to define personal happiness and success
- Chasing perfection: what others appear to be, do, like, etc as dominant personal bellwether for choices, decisions, and opinions
- Getting stuck in the audience: being so consumed with others’ lives that living their own life, having independent passions becomes secondary
How to build a healthy relationship with technology:
- Use moderation. Parents should limit screen-time, especially at night, to allow for sleep, detachment, and a mental reset
- Call a spade a spade: be direct and point out the inaccuracies or false optics on social media. Teach students to read through the fanfare and value quality content over showy content
- Lead by example: ditch the smartphone at dinner, implement phone free car rides/road trips, get outside and engage with your teen…I hear a lot of “teens need to go outside”…so show ‘em how it’s done!
- Empower children to experience moments without memorializing them. So, yes, this means even you might have to skip the selfie and taking phone pictures at your next outing…but try it! See how freeing it feels