It’s no secret that social media has a profound effect on the psyche of young kids. It impacts everything in their lives, from their sleep to their food and even their self-image. But a new study aimed at understanding social media and child development has uncovered an uglier truth.
Research led by the University of Sussex, England, found that the use of social media “negatively affects adolescent girls more than boys.”
Social media and child development cannot go hand-in-hand
The study looked at data from about 10,000 families from 2009 to 2015. At the beginning of the study, the kids were aged 10 and by the end of the study they were 15.
The researchers took into account two measures to understand the link between social media and child development. These were:
- Happiness and well-being in their lives
- Social and emotional challenges
Use of social media: boys vs girls
They found that girls in general used social media more than boys, and that affected their happiness and well-being.
- At the age of 10, about 10 percent of girls used social media for an hour each day. But only seven percent of 10-year-old boys used social media for the same time period.
- By the age of 15, about 43 percent of girls were using social media for an hour each day. On the other hand, 31 percent boys used it for an hour, per day.
Happiness and well-being quotient: boys vs girls
As for their happiness and well-being, the researchers revealed the following shocking data:
- At age 10, the girls reported “lower levels of happiness,” which decreased further as they aged.
- The boys on the other hand, did not report as low a level of happiness and well-being.
In their report, the researchers noted, “High levels of social media interaction in early adolescence have implications for well-being in later adolescence, particularly for females. The lack of an association among males suggests other factors might be associated with their reduction in well-being with age.”
This new study also highlights how girls are using social media. They noted that girls are more likely to use it to compare themselves with others. Boys, on the other hand, did not use it as much because of factors like playing outside the house or hanging out with friends.
It’s worth pointing out that while the use of social media is normal and perhaps even unavoidable once kids reach a certain age, getting addicted to it can certainly have a negative effect. So the question is: How do you limits its use by your kids?
How to limit social media for kids
If you notice your kids glued to their cellphones or tablets, chances are social media is the culprit. So here’s how you can help them.
- Encourage social communication. While you limit the usage time of social media, you must also provide an alternative. And at the age of 10, the best alternative is to encourage your kids to engage in interpersonal communication, to make friends and to make real-life social connections.
- Lead by example. You cannot force your child to do something you engage in yourself. So lead by example and limit your own social media use. Avoid talking about it at home, especially in front of your children.
- Make family time a priority. Create an environment in your home that allows you to spend time together as a unit. It could be in the evening after work and school or even in the morning. Make it a priority.