When my husband constantly referred to social media as the “devil’s’ work” I thought he was just being a dinosaur. But I have become increasingly concerned about the addictive nature of social media
Although social media sites state you have to be 14, I have admitted before that I let my children have Instagram and Snapchat once they started high school. I am now of the opinion that is too early. I didn’t want them to be the only one in the class not connected through social media, as that is the way they all communicate these days. I have written before about my concerns over the growing blight of the selfie. But my concerns now extends to the addictive nature of social media.
I know only too well the temptation to check emails, Twitter and Facebook and I am a relatively intelligent adult. So how are 11 and 12-year-olds likely to react? We recently confiscated one of our daughters’ mobile phones for a week. I won’t go into details, but it was linked to the fact that she was finding it increasingly difficult to be parted from the darn thing. In fact, it felt like it would need to be surgically removed.
However, when she was asked to hand it over she did so without a murmur of complaint and throughout the week she never asked once when she was getting it back. It almost seemed like a relief to her not to have to constantly keep checking it. We spent quality family time together, even tackling a 1,000-piece jigsaw and having conversations.
What shocked me was the number of notifications she got from Instagram and Snapchat telling her what she was missing as if to lure her back. It was with regret that I handed the phone back this week, although I have to admit her eyes lit up on its return. However, we are having much tighter rules and regulations on its use. But it highlighted an issue which we, as a society, don’t seem to know how to tackle.
The Children’s Commissioner has warned that pupils aged 10 to 12 are increasingly anxious about their online image and “keeping up appearances”. Anne Longfield says schools need to play a bigger role in making sure children are prepared for the emotional demands of social media. And she warned companies to take more responsibility.
“Failing to do so risks leaving a generation of children growing up chasing ‘likes’ to make them feel happy... and increasingly anxious about switching off due to the constant demands of social media,” she said.
But parents have a responsibilty too. We need to talk to our children about social media, and understand the demands on them.