The rise of social media has long been under scrutiny by both the government and by parents who have ongoing concerns about their children’s usage of popular online networks. But what are the main concerns that parents have, and are the government’s concerns legitimate? This article aims to look at the facts and trends around children accessing social media, the effects that certain social apps and networks can have on younger people and whether or not there is cause for concern, and if there is a requirement for greater restrictions to be put in place.
The effects of social media on children are still quite unclear. Some studies link the over-use of social media to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, and others argue that the communication and information access provided by the platforms encourages children to be more open, confident, and happier in themselves. Unfortunately, the information about children and social media is vastly contradictory, so what exactly is that information?
Well, according to an article in the Guardian in early 2019, an extensive survey was to be carried out across 40,000 households by Portsmouth and Sheffield University, looking at how social media impacts the mental health of children and young people. However, later in the year (May), the same outlet published an article based on an Oxford study around the same topic, stating that findings regarding the effects were ‘trivial,’ with a co-author stating, “99,75% of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media.”
The problem people have with studies such as this is, it is hard to know how accurate they really are, as well as how quickly things can change as growing trends, particularly to do with social media add-ons such as photoshopping apps, increase in popularity. The study did show that girls, in particular, seem to be affected more by social media, but that the effects were still ‘tiny.’ But, again, the findings could be problematic because some younger people may not want to divulge how certain aspects of social media are making them feel, nor might they want to stop using the networks. So, misinformation is a possibility.
That being said, there were no conclusive signs that children having access to social media companies had a negative impact. Much of the problem could be down to how the apps are used. As we mentioned, the rise of photo-altering apps is a growing concern, but it seems to be impacting young people above the age of 18 rather than children. What’s more, some parental controls and guidelines can be used to restrict any potentially harmful content, and so on. With this in mind, it seems to indicate that there are more pressing issues than children accessing social media. Overall, it is down to careful monitoring and consistent encouragement for children to be open about how they feeling and are coping with any social aspect of their life, digital or otherwise.