I have three children who vary in age from 11 to 18. All of them are on social media platforms every day and it is something that, as a parent, I am conflicted about. Let me explain why...
It is true to say that young people are spending more time on social media than ever before. Social media can be addictive, and excessive use can lead to negative impacts on children's mental health, including anxiety, depression, and social isolation. Children in the UK spend an average of 114 minutes per day on TikTok, followed by Snapchat for 91 minutes per day.
In 2021, around 60 percent of kids aged between 8 and 11 years in the UK owned a smartphone, which was the second most popular device to use for social media after tablets, and in the UK 44 percent of parents were slightly concerned about the amount of time their children spent on social media. Children can be exposed to inappropriate content on social media, such as violence, hate speech, or sexually explicit material, which can be damaging to their development. It has recently been reported as a result of increased awareness of the issues around cyberbullying and online harassment, which can be harmful to children's mental health and wellbeing, that TikTok is putting an automatic limit of 60 minutes screen time for all teenage users of the platform. However, for all of that negativity, I still allow my children to use social media every day and for quite a few hours… but why?
Well, I can also see the positive things that they get from it. Social media platforms can help children to connect and communicate with friends and family, especially those who are far away or that they may not be able to see in person regularly.
Two of my children are home educated and as such it can be a source of information and learning, as it provides access to news, educational content, and online communities dedicated to specific topics or interests.
My daughter loves creating videos, art and dancing and through her TikTok account has engaged with many friends around the world expressing herself creatively and showcasing her talents.
Lastly, through social media if harnessed correctly, children can develop social skills such as empathy, compassion, and understanding of diverse perspectives by interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
So what is the answer? Well, there isn’t just one. It is a challenging area and a constant balancing act as it is clear that social media can be both beneficial and harmful to children. It is also important for everyone to work together and show clearly how it is used and to have an agreed level of monitoring and guidance provided by parents and educators.
It is clearly important to educate children on responsible and safe use of social media and to monitor their online activity to ensure their safety and wellbeing, as one thing is for sure… it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
If you're an educator looking for a safe alternative to social media, globalbridge could be the answer. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to book your free demo.