Over recent years there has been more and more emphasis on the impact social media is having on children’s mental health. As part of our developing training programme and the digital strategy packages we provide schools, we have spoken to countless heads and teacher who have discovered first hand the repercussions of today’s ever-connected generation.
Technology and means of communication have come so far in recent years, however their impact on primary and secondary pupils is one we will never fully appreciated having never lived through anything similar. As such, we believe this conversation is one that needs to be had and understood by all parents, guardians and teaching staff, in order to protect children when social expectations get too high.
What issues are today’s children facing?
The main issue we have come across relates to self-esteem. Youngsters are seeking validation via the number of likes and comments they receive on social media posts, using this as a measure of their sense of worth in terms of appearance, personality and status. This over-dependence, teamed with constantly comparing themselves to others on the platforms can often lead to anxiety and depression should they feel they are not living up to their peers or their own expectations. A Facebook pages can be created when the user is just 13 (although when asked, many younger children will admit to having their own accounts). This is an age when social identity is being strongly defined in the new teens, which makes this mindset even more damaging.
Creating an online persona also opens up another avenue for bullying that is there 24/7; unkind comments and abuse no longer stop when you leave the playground which means users are unable to simply walk away.
Is it all bad?
Of course, the impact of social media is not all bleak. The ability to connect with friends anywhere in the country at any time allows young people to develop online social skills and combat issues of isolation and loneliness, developing their sense of character as they grow. Also in a world where digital media knowledge is needed to some degree for a vast majority of job roles, youngsters being able to navigate the online world at an early age is going to stand them in good stead.
That said, there is no denying that a further degree of education is needed – both in schools and at home – to teach children of the potential risks, and those in charge what to look out for in terms of over-dependant use and symptoms of related anxiety, something we believe is especially crucial as pupils move on to secondary school and such issues are brought into sharper focus.
Let us know your thoughts
Please share with us your thoughts and experiences of the emotional cost excessive social media can have on a child’s mental health in the comments below, and let’s open up the conversation.