Michiana's Problem Solver looks into social media and how its influencing kids

NOW: Michiana’s Problem Solver looks into social media and how its influencing kids

Social media has become a part of our daily lives, shaping how we communicate, gather information and perceive the world.

While these platforms offer opportunities, they have also raised important questions about their impact on young minds.

Recent studies show a strong connection between heavy social media use and mental health issues in teenagers.

Some parents believe that social media platforms are creating content aimed to addict young children and teenage users.

“It's not good for his brain, right? Like he's so young, he's got a developing brain that's going to be going on for years,” said Chelsea Los, a mom from Elkhart.

Los recently took matters into her own hands to protect her six-year-old son from spending too much time on social media.

She says her son was addicted to YouTube.

“But we have actually removed YouTube entirely, YouTube is not permitted,” she said.

Constantly scrolling from video to video, often being exposed to inappropriate content.

“The trouble is, it just goes from one video to another, and it loops,” Los said. “And so, it might start with somebody pulling Pokémon cards, and it might end with somebody, you know, calling their parents fat or stupid or just saying inappropriate things like that.”

Chelsea’s boyfriend also has two daughters, who live with them part time, and one of them is a teenager.

“We've got a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old, both girls,” she said. “And I think the studies really show that the mental health of young girls, especially with the use of social media, is highly impacted.”

According to Pew Research, social media use among teenagers ages 13 to 17 has been rising consistently since 2014.

Ninety-nine percent of teenagers use YouTube, 67%use TikTok and 62% use Instagram.

So how should parents handle the growth of social media?

“We as parents do have to set limits, that's part of our job,” said Margaret Jessop, a child psychologist. “But we also want to stay in a good relationship with our kids. So, we want to find that balance.”

A parent myself, I decided to talk with Jessop to get some insight.

She says teenagers building a social network outside the house is a normal part of child development.

Social media has become another tool for them to help do that.

“Social media, for them, feels like a really important place to practice those skills,” said Jessop. “They're also trying to learn how to discern intention of others, which in the social media world is actually quite difficult to do, they do better learning those skills face to face. So now we have a double dilemma going on.”

Jessop says when teens are trying to build their network, one of their main goals is to be successful.

With social media, not seeing enough likes or success can be problematic.

“There is a pattern in inconsistency and how we get feedback, whether it's a text message, or checking, you know, to see how many people are interested in what you've put out there,” said Jessop. “And when the pattern is inconsistent, it's similar to like, what we see in addiction, you know, or gambling. You have to keep doing it more to get that next little burst of feel good.”

Jessop says the first step is having a conversation with your kids about social media.

“The first thing I would do is sit down and learn about the app or the function that they want to be a part of together, find out all you can about it,” she said. “Stay curious, find out what they think it would be like to be actively involved in that community online practice together. And the two of you can kind of decide does this work for you? Does this make sense?”

Next is to develop healthy habits.

“So, limiting the time period that they interact with it on a regular basis so that it's predictable window rather than inconsistent throughout the day can be really helpful,” said Jessop.

And its important to teach your kids not to share too much information.

“What should parents do to ensure that they are safe, and that they that their children understand the risks with social media?” I asked.

“You don't, you don't ever let people know where you live, you don't have pictures, you know, of the community around you in your house,” Jessop said. “There's so many ways people can figure out where you are. If they can't understand all that yet, if they don't understand that when something goes up on a social platform, that you may never be able to take it down again. Then they're just not ready yet.”

Social media looks to be with us for the long term.

And it’s important for us parents to talk with our children about both the benefits and the harm of using social media.

If you have a problem and you want me to look into it , please email [email protected].

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