Today, millions of children and adolescents prefer to find answers or friends online. Some adults believe the Internet is a unique chance to exchange information and learn something new. It does not take many resources to stay up-to-date, find interesting entertainment options, and communicate. Still, it becomes hard for society to recognize the threats of social media, especially through the prism of child development. Individuals between 8 and 12 years spend about 5-6 hours online, while 13-to-18-year-olds stay online for 8-9 hours (Rideout et al. 3). Unfortunately, mental health problems, behavioral changes, and low assessments cannot be ignored. As a regular user of social media, a future parent, and a responsible community member, I want to know more about the negative impacts of social media on children and understand what may be done to predict serious physical, social, or emotional damage. My phenomenological exploration of social media via interviews allows for checking the validity of such arguments as irritability, self-esteem, addiction, and learning processes. I hypothesize that children who poorly manage social media time are at risk of increased irritability, decreased self-esteem, and inevitable addiction despite evident learning and technical improvements.
The theme of social media and its impact on human development is common in many fields worldwide. People want to know more about how to use online resources, appropriate time limitations, and who needs to control Internet activities among children. In her article, Moyer admits that technological progress is not determined by racial, gender, or social inequalities, and kids from low-income families have similar opportunities to join the digital world. During the last several years (from 2015 to 2019), media use among young populations grew by 3% (Rideout et al. 3). However, recent health issues, the pandemic, and social isolation recommendations provoked new conditions and explanations for regular online activities (Eales et al. 867). The number of young Internet users increased by 17% from 2019 to 2021 (Rideout et al. 3). Some researchers believe there are no causes for concern because children and teenagers need safe means to connect with their friends and continue their learning processes (Moyer). Social media use is not only interesting and simple but also educative and farsighted.
At the same time, the Internet is characterized by multiple concerns that some people prefer to neglect. Many studies have been developed to prove the threats of screen use, addressing mental health aspects and social work observations (Elsayed; Heitner, qtd. in Moyer). Social media outcomes might depend on personal skills, abilities, interests, family composition, and the environment. Some parents find it obligatory to control their children’s time online or check the content of their search demands. However, in most cases, adults are unaware of all social media resources and miss the information that can be critical for the child’s health. As a result, with time, it is hard for parents to understand why their children become irritable, poorly motivated, or indifferent to certain events (Eales et al. 875). The COVID-19 restrictions make it possible to hide the dangers of other activities and motives, and social media stops being a problem but a solution for young populations. Regarding such background and facts, the audience of the current study can be parents, educators, social communities, and young people who are interested in understanding the benefits and shortages of social media.
I conducted this research by gathering information from direct observers of how children use social media, meaning parents. I organized an online survey and invited parents from several local schools to answer five open-ended questions about their children. In total, 22 parents agreed to participate in the study. They got confidentiality guarantees and were informed about two major requirements: to give short 1-5-line answers within the next 24 hours. This decision was effective in obtaining enough qualitative data for analysis in a short period. The most surprising part was parental involvement in this topic and their desire to answer the questions and see what results could be achieved. The questions were simple:
- How much time does your child spend online?
- What do you do to control your child’s screen use?
- Are there any behavioral changes in your child during the last year?
- What reactions do you observe when you try to forbid your child from using social media sources?
- What goals does your child use to explain the necessity of using social media?
All surveys were done online, and it was easy to print the answers for analysis. I read each reply carefully and underlined the most interesting issues. Then, I used an automatic search option to find such words as “irritability,” “self-esteem,” “behavior,” “change,” “addict,” and “education (or learning).” The major research limitation was the possible biases of all participants and their unwillingness to notice negative aspects. To decrease the impact of biased data, I compared the answers with the findings from credible articles.
Qualitative data from online surveys and the literature review proved that children use social media services for different purposes. Parental control is required to help young populations make appropriate choices, enhance communication, and avoid abusive material (Elsayed). Still, not many families follow this recommendation and find it normal for their children to spend more than 5 hours online. Eighteen participants out of 22 admitted that they did not check what their children did online or find it necessary to examine their activities. However, only one parent out of 22 responded that no irritability or aggressiveness was observed when the necessity to restrict social media use emerged. The results prove the high-level dependence of young populations on media services. Irritability was a common behavioral change in 80% of participants, but parents noticed no evident changes in self-esteem assessment. Finally, 97% of parents revealed that social media sources were used not for educative purposes but mostly for communication and experience exchange. Eales et al. proved an educational value for media before and after the COVID-19 pandemic (880). Thus, enough arguments against social media in child development, like addiction and irritability, were found.
Appropriate child development is one of the main goals that all American citizens and organizations set and try to achieve by any means. Parents play an important role in how children accept the world, understand new information, and communicate. Still, many children cannot stop using social media today, and it is important to understand what negative and positive outcomes exist. With the help of an online survey and a review of recent research findings, I was able to clarify that most parents neglect their obligations to control their children in terms of social media use. Although not many children show low self-esteem levels, according to their parents, such issues as addiction and irritability affect children’s health and behavior. Therefore, new studies are necessary to underline the importance of parental involvement in social media use and understand how it is possible to reduce the negative impact on children.
Eales, Lauren, et al. “Children’s Screen and Problematic Media Use in the United States Before and During the COVID‐19 Pandemic.” Child Development, vol. 92, no. 5, 2021, pp. 866-882.
Elsayed, Walaa. “The Negative Effects of Social Media on the Social Identity of Adolescents from the Perspective of Social Work.” Heliyon, vol. 7, no. 2, 2021. PubMed Central. Web.
Moyer, Melinda Wenner. “Kids as Young as 8 Are Using Social Media More Than Ever, Study Finds.” The New York Times, 2022.
Rideout, Victoria, et al. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens. Common Sense, 2022.