Social media has an enormous impact on all children, socially as well as emotionally. However, for children who struggle with self-esteem issues social media can be troublesome – and even dangerous. Kids, of any age, that do not believe in themselves, who have low self-confidence and who do not see themselves as being special, are emotionally vulnerable. They enter into the social media arena with different needs, hopes and expectations. And their response to the interactions will be different too. Let’s explore this further.
Emotionally vulnerable, insecure children are at risk for posting inappropriate content on social networking sites because:
- They have a strong need to be liked by others. They need validation and may post unsuitable content as a way of gaining attention and approval.
- They may attempt to build a desired identity by pretending to be what they really are not – to appear to be ‘cool.’
A child that has self-esteem issues will often view the world from an, I’m not OK: You’re OK position. They tend to compare themselves with others and usually conclude that others are smarter, happier, better looking and more popular than they are. Then when they join the social media sites, they make comparisons and again perceive their peers as having more friends than they have and as living a more exciting, happier, fun-filled life, than theirs. These perceptions are the result of their I’m not OK: You’re OK belief and can lead to increased feelings of inadequacy, withdrawal and even depression.
What can parents do?
Be aware of signs of social media stress
Facebook Depression is a new diagnosis that has recently been cited by psychologist and psychiatrists. Be vigilant for signs of insecurity, withdrawal and even depression that could be triggered or aggravated by your child’s social media activities.
Know your child
Look for signs of inadequacy in your child. Does your child try too hard to please? Is he or she always anxious about what others think? It is not a good idea to be in denial if you think your child is grappling with poor self confidence. Hoping they will grow out of it is not a useful strategy. There are countless reasons why a child may be insecure, have low self-esteem or be emotionally vulnerable. In most cases the vulnerability is caused by a combination of both psychological and physiological stress that need to be identified and treated.
Keep virtual tabs on your kids
Know which social media sites your child uses. Research shows that while teenagers are still active in the social media their parents know, they are now looking for privacy by going to a whole new generation of sites and apps that their parents often don’t know about.
Make the social media conversation a harmonious one
Parents walk a fine line between how to monitor their kids’ online activity and keep them safe without being stifling or intrusive. It is important to explain to your children why you are monitoring their social media activity but it is equally important to have this conversation in a way that is not an argument or a punishment but rather a shared agreement. In this discussion agree on some boundaries. What you as a parent will and will not do and the same for the kids.
Have this discussion in such a way that they get the message that you are doing this because you love them and want to protect them, without you having to repeatedly say this to them.
Dr. Sandy Gluckman is a Health and Behavior Specialist. She consults with parents that have children with learning, behavior and mood challenges, offering a drug-free program to heal these problems. She has just published a new book: “Parents, Take CHARGE: Healing learning, behavior and mood challenges without medication.” Her book is available on her website www.parentstakecharge.com or on Amazon.