Social Media Melodramas – Social Media and your Child.

by aiims | 24th May 2014 |

Does your child have a problem with Social Media?

You’ve asked your child to put down her phone three times now and you’re almost at your wits end. “Do your homework or I’ll take your phone off you”, you finally declare, only to be met with steely glares and snide remarks. If you do manage to blackmail your child into doing their homework, they are often straight back on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (or other social media platforms) immediately afterwards. You throw up your hands, thinking ‘what a waste of valuable time’!

If this scenario seems familiar to you, you’re not alone – there are emerging concerns amongst Australian parents regarding their children’s social media use, to the point that some even take their child in to be treated for ‘social media addiction’. This recently classified condition has been shown to be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol in some cases, with the University of Chicago finding that online recognition – through actions such as receiving a re-tweet or ‘like’ – can actually increase the pleasure chemicals in the brain, whereas a lack of endorsement can cause stress, anger or anxiety!

Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to spot a social media addiction in your child – and generally – if they are spending more than a few hours a day online or their social media use is having a negative effect on their everyday lives, interfering with their school work or causing undue stress, they may have an addiction. Before rushing your child off to a psychologist though, there are a few strategies you could try to initiate at home with your child, in order to wean them off their preferred social media:

  • If you’re sure your child’s social media use is a problem, explain to them how their social media use is affecting their everyday life. To overcome addiction, your child first needs to admit they have a problem and often, they cannot see it. Talking about the consequence of their social media use may enlighten them enough for them to see it.
  • Try to ascertain why your child is using social media. Are they bored, lonely or not enjoying the company of their friends or family? Are they using social media to procrastinate or escape reality? Understanding what drives their use can go a long way to solving the problem.
  • Suggest other activities – such as sports and hobbies – that may be used as a replacement for social media. Similarly, initiate alternative social situations – such as a family picnic or outing – that may distract your child from their social media use.
  • Limit their use of social media. You don’t necessarily need to forcefully remove their phone or computer, but coming to an agreement on how long your child can use social media every day is often an effective strategy.
  • If all else fails, seek professional help.

If you’re concerned with your child’s social media use, but do not think they have an addiction, don’t worry too much. Social media is undoubtedly here to stay, and as society is growing and changing, new accepted social norms are shifting at a steady rate, right alongside these changes. While we may see social media as a childish waste of time, it will very likely end up being the primary form of communication in the near future. Remember, there were once plenty of complaints about the new ‘fandangle’ device called the telephone, which was apparently going to tear the social fabric to shreds!

As an added relief, a recent Swedish study has found that young people who have a high engagement in social media and online games actually have lower rates of drinking and drug taking, and that is definitely a bonus.

So, next time your child spends a Saturday morning locked in their room, chatting to their friends on social media such as Facebook, take heart and think back to the days when our parents would yell “get off the phone to your friend, it’s time to do your homework!”

 

 

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