Social Media Risks in Preteens and Teenagers - Ban it or not?

Social media use has become a fact of life for many pre-teens or teenagers. The questions is whether it is harmful, whether they are able to use social media in a safe manner, and whether it should be banned?

On the positive side, the use of social media has become a way for pre-teens and teenagers who are socially and geographically isolated to connect with friends and family. Social media provides a way to play games with others, enhance creativity by sharing ideas, music, and art. It also allows them to connect with teachers, research information, and learn current events.

Online chat rooms have become in many instances a substitute for the way in which many children and adults make new friends and connect with old ones.

However, the use of social media can also pose a substantial risk for a teenagers, who may be vulnerable.  Cyberbullying is considered the most common online risk of harm for teens. Teens may be subjected to upsetting comments, aggressive threats, derogatory criticisms, or sexually provocative remarks made to or about them. Too many teen suicides have been associated with online bullying by peers.

Overuse of social media has the risk of eliminating face to face social connection and experiences. Real life experiences are not equivalent to those experienced online.

Teens may be asked to share personal information with strangers, including sending photos of themselves, or disclosing their date of birth, phone number, and home address. It can be the unknowing method of connection to pedophiles.

Teens and preteens may also be targeted for advertising and marketing which may encourage their purchasing items not approved of by their parents.

What do do then? Should parents ban the use of social media with their children?

The answer is complicated.  The pressure to allow it is great when a preteen or teenager’s friends are using it.

Here are some tips:

Set up guidelines as to how, how long, and when your children will use social media.
Limit (and monitor ) the social media sites they can access.
Instruct your child not to share login passwords with anyone.
Dissuade your child from posting anything mean or harmful about others.
Tell them never to post sexually explicit photos of themselves, ever.
Set up privacy settings to limit who can see and comment on their posts.
Tell them not to accept ‘friend’ requests  and to block people they don’t know in real life.
Encourage them to tell you if they ever feel uncomfortable about something they have received online.

Finally, there are a number of apps that parents may use to monitor their child’s internet usage, including Aura, bark, Qustodio, familykeeper, and Norton Family Premier.

Let me know your thoughts and experience with this in your family..

Robert A. Lowenstein MD

email: [email protected]