Harmful Effects of Social Media on Young Children

Social media has become part of our daily lives, and young children are finding their ways to the sign up page as well. As parents, we understand the temptation of offering technology as a distraction for our kids, but when they use it frequently from a young age, the side effects can be harmful. According to The Conversation, “Some 99% of children aged three to 17 used the internet in 2021. YouTube was the most popular platform, with 89% of children using it. Meanwhile, half of the kids used TikTok, a popular site which allows users to watch and share short videos.”

We’re all familiar with the typical image of a young child glued to their iPad. It does teach them technological literacy and allows them to have fun, but they shouldn’t use it for an extended time on a daily basis. As parents, we are in charge of setting limits regarding technology. We need to teach our children appropriate screen times along with the correct time and place to use these devices.

We always want the best for our children, and society is leading them to adapt to technology from an early age. You have likely noticed as early as preschool beginning to use technology to teach young children. It’s up to us to help our children avoid the harmful effects of technology, especially when they explore social media sites such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more.

There’s a reason the age to sign up on social media sites is typically 13, but even when that regulation exists (just like us at their age) they will figure out a way around it. If you, as a parent, decide to let them use this technology as part of their daily routine, it’s ultimately up to you to ensure that they are keeping safe. There are some side effects that you should be aware of to keep them protected and teach them how to use technology responsibly. Some of the most problematic ones are listed below.

Social Media Promotes Poor Concentration

Social media has evolved throughout the years, and with every update, they change what they are promoting. Today’s algorithms favor short, entertaining videos that encourage engagement in the wake of the wild success of TikTok. While this can be great for adults who are already cognitively developed, this contributes to its users having less of an attention span, which can affect young children who are currently in their developing stages. The Angel Watch blog states, “Young children are in a crucial stage of language development between ages 1.5 and 3. During these crucial phases of development for young children, they are likely to learn less from ingesting media and more from interacting with their family members and/or guardians.”

Social interaction is key for children’s development; they should have the opportunity to explore the world that surrounds them and have fun interacting with kids and adults who are part of their daily lives. However, it’s crucial to ensure that you are encouraging moderation as well as screen-free time into their daily routines.

Kids Can Become Isolated

Going off the previous point, kids can forget about the world surrounding them when they indulge in social media. Kids are easily invested in the things they enjoy, and social media can become quite addictive. According to the National Library of Medicine, social isolation in children “leads to higher levels of cortisol and worse cognitive development.” That’s why the main recommendation is to set up short “technology times” when they can enjoy their devices, but then, they should return to the real world and interact with the people around them.

To avoid isolation, we also recommend planning activities they love. It can be as simple as taking time to go for a walk with them, schedule a playdate with their friends, or go on a fun zoo trip with the family.

Social Media Leads to Anxiety and Addictive Behaviors

Another big problem with social media is that we constantly look at what other people are doing and compare those experiences with our own lives. This also happens to children; they create an expectation from a young age which can develop anxiety issues in the future. According to Secure Teen, “Looking at these things, kids often become the victim of depression and anxiety, thinking that they don’t have a perfect life and they aren’t worthy enough. That’s why experts prefer to use social media for a half-hour a day to avoid such thoughts.”

Those expectations can also help them develop addictive behavior, because they will constantly want to know what others are doing. It prevents them from being individuals and finding their actual path in life.

Simply put, it’s our parental responsibility to play an active role and teach our children how to use social media correctly and safely. The days of wanting to shield them from it are no longer realistic, so we need to prepare them accordingly.