It is impossible to think of a life away from the internet and social media. While social media may have its own benefits as it allows us to communicate with our long-distance friends and family members, it also has its negative impact on our physical and mental health. Let’s understand how social media affects our young children and impacts their lives.
In 2021, it was reported that Facebook has tons of data that show how microsites and social media platforms like Instagram are hampering the mental health of children and teenagers. The report showed how these apps are negatively impacting children’s body image, self-esteem and social skills.
Since parents have little experience of how to deal with the kind of exposure kids are getting right now, they get doubly anxious. What we fail to understand is the kind of pressure of cyberbullying and peers that our children are facing today. Social media feeds are a constant barrage of keeping up with peers and the rich and famous. While adults too find it difficult to stay unaffected by the apparently perfectly lives of friends on social media, children find it even more difficult to cope with their social media persona and differentiate between the reel and the real.
Low self-esteem - One of the major effects of constant exposure to social media is low self-esteem. It is difficult for impressionable young minds to stay unaffected by what they see on social media. To add to this, apps offer short lived stories that disappear in a short period of time. This makes it easier for negative elements like cyberbullies to get away with posting harmful content.
How do we protect our child - It is important we help our kids understand the fact that everything they see on social media is not always true. As parents, we need to help boost their self-esteem and encourage them to give their best shot. Acknowledging small achievements and positive reinforcement will help you boost your kids' self-esteem and confidence. Keeping an open-door policy with your children can encourage them to open up and talk to you about issues that may be bothering them. It is imperative to give them a patient ear, and not react impulsively to what they have shared, as reacting harshly to what the child has shared may deter them from sharing anything important in the future.
Sleep disorders caused due to screens - Electronic screens from devices emit blue rays, which harm not only our eyes but also lead to poor sleep. These rays affect our natural body cycle and lead to further health issues due to poor sleep. Moreover, the stress and anxiety caused from overuse of social media also affects children’s sleep patterns.
How to help kids sleep better – One alternative is to remove all electronic devices from the child's bedroom and limit their screen time. Another method is to follow the 3-2-1 rule. This means no food before 3 hours of bedtime. No electronic devices 2 hours before bedtime. And no physical work or exercise 1 hour before bedtime. This will help your child relax their body and mind eventually, leading to a sound sleep.
Lack of activity leads to dependence - Indulging in screen time and social media fall under passive activities, which do not stimulate the growth or development of your child’s brain. These activities do not encourage your child’s thinking and reasoning power. This may further lead to behavioural problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and deters overall cognitive development.
How to break the spell - Let’s understand that not all screen time is harmful. Learn to engage your child and stimulate their mind using the same videos they enjoy watching. See the content with them, pause and ask questions that will encourage them to think more and process the information they have just watched. For instance, see their favourite show with them and discuss the plot, the characters, the conflict, the resolution at the end and encourage them to think about some other resolution for the conflict that could enhance the story and change their experience.