02 Feb We all use social media so what’s the big deal?
In February 2004, Facebook was launched. My son was 3 years old at the time and my daughter almost 2. Two years later Twitter arrived and then in 2010 Instagram came onto the scene and subsequently a barrage of social media opportunities that resulted in many family’s lives changing.
My children don’t know a world without internet and social media. Their paradigms about life, connections and even the way they do research are so very different from mine. No longer do they go to the library and wade through huge encyclopedias for information or even have to retain knowledge because ‘Google’ is always at their fingertips.
Did you know there is a clear link between social media use in teens and their mental well-being? We are all on-line. For some of us all of the time. We all use social media but I have come to realize that as parents we need to rethink how we use our digital devices and how we train our children in their use of the same.
I asked a group of 14 year-olds what life was would be like if we didn’t have the internet. Here’s what some of them had to say: “If the we didn’t have the Internet, the world wouldn’t know that much about what is happening around us. I do all my research on the Internet. If I didn’t have that I’d have to go to the library. I get news in an instant and I like that it keeps me connected with what’s happening globally.” Another teenager said that there wouldn’t be as many pressures on people to be a specific person or an image they’re not. She thought that people would get out more, be more active and not stuck in their rooms.
“You can post pictures and your friends can see it. I like that I can talk to people overseas. I like that I can send messages to people and ask for homework. It’s entertaining but there is a darker side,” one teenager remarked.
Since adolescence is a vulnerable period for development of long-term issues, it is essential that parents understand how our teens use social media and its impact on factors like sleep quality, mental health, well-being and their physical growth. One of the girls commented, “You get people who use it for cyber-bullying and you’re exposed to information which can be dangerous.”
Researcher, Dr Heather Cleland Woods, said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.” She went on to say that problems were more prone to arise during night-time social media use.
Consider implementing a ‘social media sunset’. Take time to pack your devices away, charge them in a different room and take time off from being connected. It’s really as simple as packing your phone away.
We need to realize that when our children are on social media. Every interaction releases dopamine (pleasure) and when there are too many dopamine hits the brain shuts down. Through excessive digital use our children are at risk of digital burnout. The focus is on the the brain’s pleasure centre and after a period of not relaxing from too much stimulation, the brain goes numb as a result from the excessive dopamine release.
Author and IT expert, Brad Huddlestone says that our brain are sequential processes. We think we multitask but our brain actually switches from one activity to the next so quickly that we don’t really focus properly on the task at hand. Doing too many things at the same time doesn’t allow for our brain to transfer short term memory to long-term memory. What we fear is missing out but sometimes we miss out on remembering.
It is a big ask to teach our kids (and ourselves) to relearn to mono-task again. I’m making a change. Why don’t you join me.
Are you up for the challenge?
Social Media Use in Teens Linked to Poor Sleep, Anxiety accessed on http://www.livescience.com/52148-social-media-teen-sleep-anxiety.html
Notes from a talk on Carte Blanche: Digital Cocaine by Brad Huddleston – a short summary available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FKepNvkL7g