As doctors and parents, we have all seen the negative impact of social media on our kids. It’s become even clearer with recent revelations published in The Wall Street Journal, and testimony given to Congress by a former Facebook employee suggests that the platform may have been aware of possible harmful effects on its young and maturing users for a long time now.
Although you see your adolescent children as treasures to be guided into adulthood, Facebook views them as a “valuable but untapped audience.” Facebook might not be the top social media choice of kids these days, but its employee’s recent comments offer a bit of insight into what makes these types of companies tick.
For better or worse, social media continues to be a part of many of our lives. The big question is, what can you, as parents and protectors of your kids, do to help kids make the best decisions about social media use, especially when social media sites themselves may be more interested in profit than in your child’s mental health?
Social media data shows that these products can adversely affect the body image of vulnerable youths. The focus on appearance by sites such as Instagram can have a powerful negative effect on teens already susceptible to body image issues. Because social media algorithms recognize extreme controversial content, users also need to be aware of possible misinformation and inappropriate content.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media offers many suggestions and says that opening a dialogue with your kids and teens about their social media use is the first step:
- Ask them about any challenges they see on social media.
- Teach them about values and relationships, the important things in life, and talk about how social media supports or conflicts with these lessons.
- Encourage them to take breaks from social media and interact with friends in other ways. Face-to-face interactions are still critical.
- Be sure they are comfortable coming to you when disturbing things are seen on social media.
For additional information, visit healthychildren.org.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.