Save children from social media

Published On: September 15, 2018 12:15 AM NPT By: Usha Pokharel

You may be proud to put your child’s pictures on social media. But you may also have exposed your child to those abusers who mislead children

I am sure you will agree with me when I say social media plays a role in our lives. I am tempted to ask you a very personal question: How many times do you check your social media account in a day?  Now, don’t be embarrassed. At the same time also think of how you feel when you cannot check your social media account for a few days.  Do you feel you are missing out on something someone said or even the reaction to your pictures that you recently posted? If you do, believe me, that is the beginning of anxiety disorder. 

Here are more symptoms for you to check for. You have tried many times to reduce use of social medial without success. Or you have this overwhelming need to share things with others on the social media.  It is also possible that you are carrying your phone with you all the time to have easy access to social media and this urge is interrupting your life: both work and private. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you are heading in the direction of anxiety disorder.  Believe it or not, this is one of the most common forms of mental health disorder in the United States.  Shocked? Don’t be. Nepal is also gradually heading toward that direction. 

How can that be? We are from a poor country and not all have access to inter-net. You might ask. But almost everyone has access to internet and social media. Even children, who are not old enough, have their own account on social media.  Look into your account and you will see you have befriended your friend’s three months old child. It is entirely possible that you have created an account for you own baby. You know full well that you require a certain age to get an account for social media platforms, but you lied about their age and got an account for your child any way. 

Now you are proud to put your child’s pictures and activities on the social media.  But do you by any chance realize what you have got yourself into? May be you have exposed your child to all those abusers who mislead children. 

How social media affects 
You have knowingly introduced your infant child to social media. You are in control of the account as of now, but imagine what will happen when you will have to relinquish the control of their social media account and your child locks you out of the account. That is when the real trouble starts. Social media will start to gradually dictate your child’s life. They are exposed to various unwanted elements from cyber-bullying to feeling the pressure of social media to do certain things that you might not be comfortable with. This is just the sample of your own life becoming a hell just because of social media. 

Social media has the potential of becoming a landmine for children.  If not handled properly, it has the potential to wreck havoc in your children’s life.  You have unknowingly exposed your child to the world of cyber crime as one more potential child to be abducted or sold to other countries without your knowing. All those beautiful pictures you posted could entice bad influence on your child and eventually lure them to a very difficult path. Yes, you heard me right.  I am talking about your children. I know you never thought of it that way and now you are shocked. I am not trying to scare parents. I am just stating the fact.

Now the next issue is that of anxiety in children. Though there is not much research to make it definite, but some research has indicated a relationship between social media use and anxiety in children. Just like parents, chances are social media also causes anxiety in children. It’s difficult to differentiate if social media is causing anxiety or rather it is children who are anxious turning to social media to soothe themselves or seek support. 

It’s common for children to feel anxious sometimes. But there is a big difference between occasional anxiety and an anxiety disorder. So now you are thinking how to identify anxiety disorder in children? Well there are few indicators that you can look for in your child. If your kid is overly self-conscious, has uncontrollable and unrealistic anxiety and is unable to make it go away, and avoids direct communications and prefers online interactions instead, this is one sign of such disorder. 

These might be reasons enough to be worried about for a parent.  At the same time also consider the fact that for these kids, social media may act as a trigger for their anxiety, but might not be the root cause of their anxious feelings. It all depends on a child’s use of social media. There are also some children, who, for a variety of reasons, may be sensitive to the anxiety-producing effects of social media. Sadly enough, when you introduced social media to your children, you did not think so far ahead and as a result, you may not know the actual impact of social media on your child until issues start surfacing.

Finding solution 
Simply moving them away from social media is not the solution to the problem. Instead adopt a few tips for the safety of your children on social media.  As a parent it is always a good idea to set a good role model and check and reduce the time you are spending on social media and the way you are using it.  Posting too many pictures of oneself might present a problem because then your children will also want to do that same thing.  It is usually accepted for people to post pictures that might make their life look perfect without struggles. It is a good idea to remind your children that social media does not present the actual situation. It leaves the messy stuff out.  Explain that everyone has ups and downs. Help them put social media in a right perspective. 

Finally, without conclusive research to bank on, the issue of social media and anxiety cannot be directly linked in the case of children. Under such circumstances, to be on the safe side it is entirely up to the parents to keep tab on their children’s activities on social media.  

It does add up to the parent’s duties of keeping their children safe. Try and encourage children to participate in offline activities.  Talk about their feelings about different things. Buy them books of their choice and discuss about them, do different activities together that they can brag about in school.  Always keep the lines of communication wide open with your children.  Never ever antagonize them.  Let them know that you are always there when they need you.  Just think, your sacrifice today will bring you big time satisfaction in the long run. All they need is a bit more of your time. Now that is not asking too much of you, right parents? 


Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books

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