There is a lot of controversy now about children’s access to electronic devices and, particularly, social media. Many parents are understandably concerned about the effect social media may have on their kids.
Those of us adults who use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media know that people often choose to show only the happy, pretty, upbeat side of our lives. Who wants to post about the fight you just had with your spouse, about the fact that you don’t like your daughter’s boyfriend, or the fear of losing your job that’s keeping you up at night?
Those whose only real exposure to others is through electronic media may not realize how inaccurate and misleading others’ social media profiles may be.
I know as a mom I worry that my teen is confining so much of his communication with peers to texting that he is not practicing valuable communication skills. Gone are the days of teen girls spending hours holed up in their room chatting with friends on the phone. Now they trade texts which are completely devoid of the tiny clues of tone of voice, facial expression, and uncomfortable pauses that can help interpret and layer meaning on spoken words.
Not to mention that it’s hard to create deep, long-lasting emotional relationships when all you can see is what another person purposely chooses to show. It’s when things AREN’T pretty that you learn what someone is really like. And tough times and real struggles build deep connections with others.
There was a study from the UK published recently that brought new focus to these pitfalls. Researchers conducted a huge survey (almost 10,000 teens) which examined how much time the teens spent chatting on social media. They also asked questions designed to evaluate the teens’ emotional and behavioral status and created a “happiness score.”
The researchers found that girls used social media more often than boys, although both genders’ use rose with age. Also, use of social media in girls, particularly at a younger age, was associated with lower “happiness scores. In boys it didn’t seem to have much if any effect.
Those of us who are parents of teens need to be careful to monitor our children’s use of social media. Their happiness and well-being can be seriously impacted by spending too much time online, especially our daughters.
QUESTION: Do you have teens who use social media? Do you notice it affecting their mood and well-being?