Why Social Media Can Be Dangerous for Your Child

Being a kid or young adult has its many challenges, but unfortunately, these common issues are further exacerbated by stressors that arise from social media. More specifically, the issues surrounding social media addiction and how it negatively impacts children and young adults as their brains develop. In recent years, multiple lawsuits have covered the underlying issues surrounding social media addiction and how mega-companies like Meta, the owners of Facebook and Instagram, have used their algorithms to target and prey on the insecurities of vulnerable kids and young adults.

In 2021, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and now whistleblower, testified before a U.S. Senate committee, accusing the company of ignoring the harm caused by its social platforms. Haugen went on record and told committee members, "Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content." Then again, on June 6, 2022, a lawsuit was filed against the social media company Meta known as Alexis, Kathleen, and Jeffrey Spence v. Meta Platforms, Inc., when 11-year-old Alexis Spence developed an eating disorder due to social media use. Unfortunately, Alexis isn't the only one suffering from the harmful effects of social media addiction. According to research in a spring 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook's internal message board, "Thirty-two percent of girls under the age of 26 said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse."

Why Social Media Can Be Dangerous for Your Child

Social media plays an active role in our everyday lives, playing off the idea that these online platforms are here to help keep us connected. In reality, these very platforms have also been increasingly linked to mental health issues and have negatively affected the quality of real-life social relationships. Studies have shown that social media content has given rise to envious feelings that can further lead to depression and anxiety — all of which can cause a downward spiral in people's psychological well-being. This is why you need to understand the ins and outs of the potential adverse effects social media use can have on the mental health of your child. 

Social Media and Self-Harm and Suicide

As mentioned previously, studies have shown that the use of social media correlates with increased feelings of depression and anxiety among adolescent users. These studies have highlighted that increased screen time among young adults has been linked to a higher risk of depression, suicide, and self-harm. Social isolation, comparison, and online peer pressure also contribute to the rise of depression, suicide, and self-harm in young adults. 

Social Media Effects on Body Image and Eating Disorders

The use of social media platforms can lead to lower self-esteem, according to a study done in 2017. Constant exposure to adverts posting models with what they consider "ideal body types" leads young adults to compare themselves to unrealistic standards, eventually leading to lower body satisfaction in young women. Unfortunately, in some cases where those social media victims have become unsatisfied with their bodies, they may often partake in harmful and unhealthy behavior, including eating disorders like bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa, to try and meet these unrealistic beauty standards.

Social Media Effects on Loneliness and Suicide

In 2020, BMC published a study with multiple data points regarding what they called "social media disorder" and its relationship to loneliness. Researchers also uncovered that women were more likely to experience feelings of loneliness than men. A similar study by the University of Pennsylvania found that Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook have negatively impacted many people's well-being. The injuries sustained from social media algorithms have varied anywhere from increased feelings of loneliness to depression. The Current Opinion released a publication noting that suicide, in direct correlation with the problematic use of social media, is one of the leading causes of death worldwide among 10- to 24-year-olds.

If you believe your child is clocking in more than 120 minutes of social media daily, this may be a cause for concern. However, in some cases, it may be more difficult to tell if your child is a victim of social media addiction and how you can help protect them. Signs to look out for include but are not limited to:

  • Inability to focus due to social media use
  • Reduced interest or interactions in the real world
  • A constant need to visit social media apps or sites
  • Using social media in hazardous situations, such as driving or working

In some cases, your child can be influenced to use social media in more than just self-damaging ways. Suppose you believe your child is engaging in social media inappropriately through cyber-bullying or sexting. In that case, more immediate action may be necessary to help safeguard your child from harming themselves or others. For starters, according to Harvard Health, parents should begin to limit the amount of time their kids spend on social media throughout the day. For example, setting specific guidelines for when it is appropriate to put your phones away, like dinner or bedtime. Another option would be to place parental locks on their devices, blocking them from accessing specific sites or apps. Young adults who are no longer under the watch of a parent or guardian who may find themselves struggling with how to disconnect from these social media platforms can also incorporate these actions.

No child or young adult should ever feel isolated or need to change who they are simply because an app made them feel inferior, especially when these feelings are the result of a corporation's negligence. For over 30 years, My Florida Litigators has been helping people like you get the justice they deserve. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered from the harmful effects of social media, our attorneys may be able to help you. For more information, please contact our offices by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form, and one of our specialists will be in touch.

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