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The State of Social Media

Are social media platforms harmful to our children and what is the impact of social media? If so, what can we do about it?

Recently Facebook has come under intense scrutiny following the ‘Facebook Files’, a series of Wall Street Journal reports and revelations of an ex-employee, Frances Haugen. The Wall Street Journal reports and Haugen’s revelations, which are supported by internal Facebook files, alleged that Facebook was fully aware of the harmful psychological impact of its platforms on teenage and tween girls. 

Last week lawmakers assessed allegations that Facebook’s internal research showed that its platforms are negatively affecting the mental health of millions of people and predominantly female teens.

These findings might not come as a surprise to parents and educators, with the consumption having skyrocketed in the last few years and the impact of social media on society. Research has found that the daily use of social media has shifted from 90 minutes per day on average in 2012, to 145 minutes in 2020, this research shows the clear increase in time spent consuming media through social media.

In other words, that’s almost an additional 60 minutes per day, on average, is being spent on social media platforms since 2012. Over the course of the year, this comes to 38 days! That’s more than a month of consuming content through social media.

Over the course of a year, the average time spent on socail media platforms is 38 days.

When considered from this perspective, finding a way to limit the amount of time teens spend on social media ought to be considered by parents and educators.

Further insight stemming from the ‘Facebook Files’, discovered that in 2019, a presentation created by Facebook researchers found that one in three teenage girls found Instagram worsened their body image. Another research presentation from March 2020, which was posted on Facebook’s internal message board, found that 32% of teenage girls, when feeling bad about their bodies, felt even worse after going on Instagram. 

Since 2019 Facebook researchers have found that they consistently received feedback from teens that Facebook contributed towards their depression and anxiety. 

Parents have slammed Facebook following the release of reports outlining Facebook’s disregard for the negative impact of their platforms on the mental health of teens. Willie Preston, a father of six from Chicago, stated that ‘parents have so many things to worry about and social media is on top of the list right now.’ He further argued that ‘there are so many unknown and known dangerous elements that are coming from social media platforms.’ 

“…parents have so many things to worry about and social media is on top of the list right now.”

According to another report by Healthline, Jessica Castonguay, DO, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist and an expert on eating disorders stated that research has found that “the added stimulus of frequent images of the ‘ideal’ body shape can lead to increased body image concerns among tweens and teens.”

“…the added stimulus of frequent images of the ‘ideal’ body shape can lead to increased body image concerns among tweens and teens.”

It is increasingly clear that what may have seemed to be an organic social experience for users has in fact been a carefully coordinated project for Facebook, which seems to not have the best interests of its users at heart. Resulting in worrying and harmful results for their users. 

This leads to the question, how we can protect our children from the negative effects and impact of social media? Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends no more than 2 hours of screen media per day. Castonguay and other experts have advised parents to set rules to limit how and when their children can use social media to try to mitigate harm. 

One approach to limiting the time that students spend online is via cloud-based web filters and mobile device management software. These tools are effective educators and parents in protecting their students and children from the negative effects of social media platforms.

Learn more about how to restrict access to social media with a web filter and MDM solution for teenagers and how to block social media on student and teenager’s devices.

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