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Social Media Can Be Detrimental to Adolescent Girls
Technology has taken over many people’s lives. If you don’t have a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop people will think that you live under a rock. With all of that power in your hands, you’re bound to let your child play with it. Many apps on smartphones and tablets are created specifically for toddlers, making this technology the new norm for kids to grow up around. But when exactly do you let your child access social media? A new study published by BMC Public Health warns that introducing social media to girls as young as ten can have negative impacts on their well-being later in their adolescence.
The study was based on a polling of 9,859 adolescents between the age of 10 and 15 in the United Kingdom. The research showed that girls used social media more than boys, and by the age of 13, around half of the girls polled were using social media for more than an hour on school days— a third more than their male peers.
“While social media allows for interaction between people, it is still a sedentary activity that can be done in a solitary environment,” wrote Cara L. Booker and colleagues from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. “Conversely, social media are often used in group settings. Whether done in isolation or with friends, there may be risks to using social media, which could lead to poorer physical and mental health in adulthood. Risk factors such as social isolation, low self-esteem, increased obesity and decreased physical activity may all contribute to later life health issues.”
Adolescents were quizzed on their well being using a questionnaire that scored their “happiness” based on separate parts of their life including family and school. There was also a “strengths and difficulties” questionnaire that polled their emotional and behavioural problems. Researchers asked what platforms on social media they were using and how much time they spent on them.
Throughout the study, researchers found that happiness dropped close to three points from 36.9 to 33.3 in girls, and two points for boys from 36.02 to 34.55. While there isn’t a large number of the two, researchers were able to distinguish a connection between the well-being of girls and the use of social media.
Dr. Cara Brooker said: “Our findings suggest that it is important to monitor early interactions with social media, particularly in girls, as this could have an impact on well-being later in adolescence and perhaps throughout adulthood.”
“Since we did not observe an association between social media use and well-being among boys, other factors, such as the amount of time spent gaming, might be associated with the boys’ observed decline in well-being.”
How To Introduce Social Media
There really is no reason for a ten-year-old to have a social media account, is there? That’s why you should start off by letting your adolescent use your phone to scroll through your own social media—pending that your social media is child-friendly. Chances are that they simply want to explore and see photos of Auntie and Uncle or their favourite sports team. Under your supervision, you can easily show them these things on your phone. You’ll know when your child is mature enough for their own social media account. Don’t fall for the “but my friends have it!” excuse. Your ten-year-old really doesn’t need their own account.
When the day comes that you do allow them to get their own account, set it up with them, sharing the password between the two of you. By knowing their password, you’ll always have access to the account. On your own, manage their privacy settings. You won’t want your child to know how to go back and reverse all of your settings. Be sure to check them from time to time to ensure that your settings are still intact.
Help them follow the things that you want them to follow like family and friends and sports teams. Be sure to follow these people to see what pictures and comments are being shared. If it’s a fellow tween be prepared for a lot of emojis. Manage who they follow and make a deal that you have to approve who is accepted as a follow beforehand. This way you can ensure that the proper people are following them.
Lastly, limit their social media and technology use. They’re still kids— they should be hanging out with their friends in person, not chatting with them on Instagram or Facebook.