By Ivy Maloy

Social media is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents. Any Web Site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site. We’ve seen our kids become social media zombies and even though some use it for learning purposes, the bad is a lot more than the good. 

Social media can and does have a positive effect on children and teens, whether by teaching social skills, strengthening relationships or just being fun. Persistent use of these social platforms can also have a negative impact, particularly on the mental health and well-being of young users.

Young people naturally compare themselves with the people they interact with on social media, but doing so can be detrimental to a healthy self-image. In the journal Body Image, researchers report that undergraduate women felt worse about their own appearance after they viewed the social media page of someone they considered more attractive. The results were consistent whether the women had a positive impression of their appearance or a negative one prior to viewing the page.

This “social comparison” factor takes many forms online that can negatively affect young users of social media. To compensate for the natural tendency to compare themselves with the people they interact with online, we as young people need to remind themselves that social media makes people and things look better and more attractive than they are in real life.

Most teenagers and young adults feel pressured to only post content on social media that makes them look good to others and sometimes for the fear of being cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can be very damaging and upsetting because it’s usually anonymous and hard to trace. It is also very hard to control and take it down as one has no idea ow many people saw the posts or messages.

Sometimes, online bullying, like other kinds of bullying, can lead to serious long-lasting problems. The stress of being in a constant state of upset or fear can lead to problems with mood, energy level, sleep, and appetite. It also can make someone feel jumpy, anxious, or sad. If someone is already depressed or anxious, cyberbullying can make things much worse. So parents and guardians need to balance the freedom they give their children by monitoring their online activities without invading their privacy. It is not necessary for parents and guardians to track everything their children on social media. However, parents must watch for signs that their children’s use of social media is having effects on their mental health.

But in as much as we would like to blame social media for all these effects, social media is just a platform, it is the people using the platforms that bring out these effects.

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