Parents of the social media generation are not OK - Social Media Explorer
Parents of the social media generation are not OK
Parents of the social media generation are not OK

“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.

Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, leaked hundreds upon thousands of documents within the company. Some of these documents showed that Instagram had known of its potential to have a negative impact on one’s mental and physical health, particularly among teens. Haugen touched also on the effect on parents. Haugen spoke before Congress October 5th. She mentioned Facebook research showing that kids feel they can handle bullying and body image problems on their own because parents don’t know how to guide them.

“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.

Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in October has tried repeatedly to discredit Haugen. It claimed that her testimony, and the reports she made on the documents, mischaracterize their actions and efforts. Facebook was forced to reconsider its launch of an Instagram application for children younger than 13 by the backlash from Haugen. Children under 13 years old are currently not allowed to open accounts on Meta platforms.

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.

Snap and TikTok executive showed humility and recognized the need for more protection of their platforms in their testimony. Snap’s global policy VP Jennifer Stout said that the company was working on new tools to help parents monitor their kids’ use of the app. Instagram stated previously that it is “increasingly focusing on negative social comparisons and body image”
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before a Senate subcommittee in October.
Instagram has introduced a new feature called “Take a Break”, which allows users to disconnect from Instagram in preparation for the congressional appearance. Instagram also stated that it will take a more strict approach to what it recommends for teenagers. It will actively encourage them to switch topics when they have been focusing on one type of content too much. The company plans to launch its first tools to parents next year, which include an educational hub, parental monitoring tools, and tools to track how long their children spend on Instagram.

SME Business spoke to Vaishnavi J about the safety and well-being of Instagram.

Members of Congress showed rare bipartisanship in criticizing the tech companies, and have also shown uncommon unity. Some legislators are pushing legislation to improve children’s online privacy and decrease the addictiveness of different platforms. However, it is unclear when such legislation might pass.

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.

Facebook changes its company name to Meta
Data also shows that young people are more likely to have mental health problems via social media. Bark, which monitors the internet for potential concerns and screens personal messages, emails, and social media accounts, reported that it received 143% more alerts about suicide and self-harm during the first three month of 2021 than the same period last year. Bark sends parents alerts informing them of potential problems and offering expert advice from child psychologists on how to resolve them.

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, now 18, recalls how Instagram impacted her mental health in middle school.

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

Julia Taylor often turns to a group on Facebook called “Parenting in a Tech World”, when she needs help with parenting. Taylor said that her son suffers from ADHD. He is hyper-focused and “becomes obsessed with certain things,” which causes him “to be focused on everything” even if it’s just a screen. Taylor was a Denver mom who wanted to get her son a phone but he kept hacking into every parental control and staying up late.
Google rolls out tool to help minors delete photos from search

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.”

To help kids and parents, there are many policy options being considered. Haugen is one of those who criticized tech companies for using algorithmic newsfeeds to drive people down rabbit holes. The Kids Act is a bill proposed by two Democratic senators. It would prohibit push notifications and autoplay settings in the hopes of restricting screen time. According to the Organization for Social Media Safety, it has been working with Congress to get legislation passed that would require parental monitoring apps to be installed on every social media account of all children of a specific age.
Titania Jordan, an executive at Bark, started a Facebook Group for parents to discuss the challenges associated with raisiing kids in the digital age

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.”

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About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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