Social Media Addiction -- What's a Parent to Do?

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  Addiction is powerful — especially for young people. An addiction can mean a life of unusual struggle and hardship on many levels. But parents can make a difference.

   It appears Americans’ newest addiction is technology, and more precisely social media. This vise-grip is especially strong on young people. A recent online poll conducted earlier this month by SocialSphere and Harvard pollster John Della Volpe proves the point.

   The poll involved just over 1600 regular Facebook and Instagram users. To be clear, Facebook owns Instagram; so, it is extremely easy for people to go back and forth between the two platforms.

   The pollster announced the results of the poll using his Twitter account, noting, in summary, that “[n]early 2/3 of Americans who use platforms believe life was better without them” and that “42% of #GenZ [are] addicted [and] can’t stop if they tried.”

   According to the pollster, the words most commonly used by GenZers after they have been on Facebook are depressed, angry, alone and missing out. In addition, about a third of GenZers indicate that Instagram “negatively impacts their body image,” an amount considerably higher than other age groups’ response.

   GenZ, also called “zoomers,” are those born between 1997 and 2012, ranging in age from 9 to 24. Demographers say 68 million people in America make up GenZ. Research shows somewhere between 72% and 82% of Americans use social media. Assuming for argument’s sake that percentage goes for each age group, that means by far the vast majority of our young people are on social media and many are addicted to it and find themselves powerless to break the habit.

   On one level, it doesn’t really matter what the social media platform is. Young people, in particular, find social media powerfully addicting and as such it is significantly affecting their quality of life.

   The admonition in this seems obvious: parents need to take immediate action to protect their pre-teen and teens from developing this dangerous and debilitating addiction.

   First, parents need to realize using social media can become much more than an innocent means for kids to connect with other kids or that its just harmless entertainment. Don’t assume and don’t be an ostrich. Just being online increases the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content and to prowling predators who are very good at what they do — luring naïve children into a sordid and sometimes extremely dangerous world.

   If a parent does let a child have access to digital technology and social media platforms, at a minimum, the parent should be familiar with and should utilize all parent controls, including privacy and security settings. Make it clear to your child that you will be a “friend” or whatever the term used is on any and all social media platforms he or she has access to. Keep close tabs on who your son or daughter is inviting and accepting invites from. In fact, a wise practice is to not allow new “friends” unless approved by you.

   In an age-appropriate way, we strongly recommend discussing with your child some of the dangers of cell phone use, the internet in general and social media in particular. Help them know what constitutes an inappropriate text or photo exchange or social media post or online video. Don’t assume they know. Be proactive. Certainly, always make it clear to your child that you are a safe place for them to talk to, to share concerns with, to bring questionable items, to ask questions. You should be a sure refuge for your son or daughter.

   We definitely recommend investing in a quality filter for all devices. It’s not foolproof, but a good filter helps. Finally, we urge families to have digital devices and internet rules that apply to everyone, even mom and dad. Limit the amount of time, as well as when and where, family members can be on devices and can access social media. Of course, consistently implementing these practices and consistently disciplining for infractions is critical.

   None of the above constitutes bad, invasive parenting. You’re not invading your child’s privacy; you are acting in his or her best interest. You are taking appropriate action to help them avoid developing an addiction that is difficult to break and comes with a host of potential mental health issues. That’s good and godly parenting.

Online:
WiFamilyCouncil.org
Tel: 888-378-7395

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