“I felt completely shocked,” said Polak 45-years old, who lives near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. She didn’t seem to be feeling down, which was something I did not know. “I asked her what she meant by that, and she kept repeating it to me.
Polak met her at a crisis centre, where she learned that her anxiety was being driven by the social pressures. Her main stressor was waiting for Snapchat photos and messages to be opened by her friends.
It became addictive [for her]It is the feeling that one must be always on and be responsive to people in order for them to be seen. She would glance at her phone, go from calm and storming out the car to curled up on her bed the rest of her night.
Polak disabled some parental controls on the phone, however they were very easy to bypass for her daughter. After she realized that her phone was not safe, she took it away and was concerned about her daughter’s thoughts about taking control of her life. Her daughter found herself “self-soothing” via TikTok. She said that her daughter believes she cannot fall asleep without the app. Polak described her daughter as feeling lost. She said that she doesn’t know what to do with herself if she isn’t on social media.
Polak is one of a growing number of parents who didn’t grow up with social media and now struggle to comprehend and navigate the negative effects that it can have on their child’s mental health. SME Business interviewed nearly dozen parents over the course of the month to discuss how to help teens suffering from online bullying, body image issues, and pressures to “always be Liked.” These issues were either exacerbated or started by the pandemic. This was a period when children felt isolated and social media provided a way to communicate with each other.
“It’s the saddest thing when I go on Twitter to see people blaming their parents for all these Facebook problems. You can just take the phone from your child. She said that the truth is, it’s much more complex than that.”
“It is very rare to have one of these generational shiftings, where the generation that leads like parents who direct their kids, have such different experiences that they don’t know how to provide safe support for their children,” she said. Parents must be supported. Facebook cannot protect children. We must help parents support their kids.
This helped to spur a series o congressional hearings on tech products’ impact on kids. They featured executives from Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and Snap’s parent company Snap. As lawmakers examine the impact of the app on children, this week’s head at Meta-owned Instagram will appear in Congress.
SME Business spoke to Vaishnavi J about the safety and well-being of Instagram.
Some parents are frustrated that these changes don’t happen quickly enough. Parents feel helpless and unsure of what to do next. This could be pushing for change in school districts, or seeking advice from other parents on the same social media networks that have been causing them pain.
Long-standing concern, which is getting more serious
Some households were already concerned that their children were being exposed to more risks through social media, even before Haugen’s revelations.
Katherine Lake claimed that social media has become “everything” for her 13 year-old daughter during the Pandemic. She used it to keep in touch with friends and pass the time at the house. Her teen “fell down the rabbit hole” of social media pages on mental health, and then later posts about self harm, something that she said was new to her. After trying to commit suicide, the teenager ended up in hospital.
Marc Berkman is the CEO of Organization for Social Media Safety. This agency was founded in 2013 to offer safety tips for parents.
Titania Jordan is chief marketing officer for Bark. “Our children are living in the phones of their kids and their problems reside within that digital signal in places parents don’t go,” she said. “If your kids are not online at all, then how will you educate them? And how do you offer guidance?
Gabriella Bermudez is a Fordham University student aged 19. She told SME Business that she began to struggle with her body image in middle school when a guy she was interested in started liking photos from a 30 year-old model via Instagram.
“I remember looking at her when I was twelve and thinking, ‘Why don’t I look like this?’ said Bermudez.”I had pimples all over my body. My hair was terrible. … I didn’t realize she was a woman of mature age. To make me look older, I uploaded pictures of myself.
That started to get older men on Instagram direct messages. Because she believed her parents would never be able to understand the joy of being young, she kept it from them. [right now].”
They were subject to societal pressures, whether it was through magazines or TV. You could turn it off. Our phones are our constant companions. These ideals are always in our minds when we wait at bus stops or walk to school.
You are looking for solutions
Her blog, “Parenting in a Tech World” has over 150,000 subscribers. There, parents and children can give feedback about a range of topics including whether a child is allowed to use social media sites and how to handle inappropriate messages or images. She also offers product suggestions such as a docking system that prevents devices from being left in kids’ rooms. Taylor recently purchased a Pinwheel mobile phone, which comes with web browsers but restricts social media use. She later became a full-time marketing manager.
Bark’s Jordan created the group after joining the company as a parent and struggling for resources. You are going to be the best parent for your child. “It’s always required a village to become the best parent. We wait on Big Tech and lawmakers to help us. Learning from parents who’ve been there, done it and made mistakes as well as their successes is the best thing you can do.
There aren’t any easy solutions to this problem. The future of social media and smartphones is here, and you don’t want to take them away. This could lead to a decline in independence and the ability for children with disabilities and other issues. Alexandra Hamlet is a New York City clinical psychologist. She says it’s crucial for parents to support teenagers in navigating both the digital and real worlds. According to Hamlet, “If we teach and support children to use the exact same skillsets in order to navigate every world, then we increase our chances for attaining mental well-being.”
Parents from both the Facebook group and other parents are using parental control apps to limit their children’s social media usage. Others have even tried to persuade their kids’ schools to do something, such as ban cellphones in school and clamp down on cyberbullying. However, this has not been a success.
Fernando Velloso from Los Angeles said that his daughter, high school age, was subject to an anonymous bullying account, likely created by fellow classmates. The accounts were likely set up in response to false allegations about Fernando’s dating life. Because it took place outside the school’s premises, he said that the school was reluctant to investigate.
SME has a list of high school Instagram accounts in the vicinity. Students are invited to send gossip tips to those accounts that call students cheaters or rapists. Some accounts have been removed by Instagram, but others are still active. Meta spokeswoman said that while the accounts were not in violation of its community guidelines, some pieces of content had. These have since been deleted.
Bermudez believes schools should do more to help teenagers manage social media and mental health. It is important that we are taught how to use social media at an early age. [make it a]Safe space
Haugen stated that schools and other organizations like the National Institutes of Health need to provide information so parents know how they can better support their children. The Organization for Social Media Safety has a DARE program that will be included in the curriculum of thousands of schools this school year. This is to inform students about the risks of social media.
The mother of a child who was suicidal, Polak suggested that her daughter’s school organize a Mental Health Awareness Week. This would involve screenings from Childhood 2.0 and The Social Dilemma, two documentaries which examine how the platforms can impact the mental health of their users.
Polak stated that her daughter has improved and can now access social media when she is restricted by time. But once a week she hosts a social-media brawl where her daughter will ask me questions like “When is Snapchat available again?” What’s the best time to get back on TikTok. The constant battle is hard and it’s very difficult to get back onto TikTok. There’s also a lot peer pressure, from good friends.
On a recent evening, her daughter was quietly playing in the room with her family cat. It was the small everyday items that ease anxiety that she thought of, and that is what I noticed. “This is what’s completely missing in teenage life.”