The Reasons Why Middle School Kids Shouldn't Use Social Media


The Reasons Why Middle School Kids Shouldn't Use Social Media

If you've been through middle-school parenting, you might have noticed that strange things seem to happen to a child’s brain the first day they walk into school.

Someone may sum up the children's primary goals in middle-school life this way:

  • To be funny at all costs. (That means the silly bathroom jokes, speaking at inappropriate times in class, and an “everything it takes to be popular” attitude.)
  • To focus on their appearance — their clothes, their face, their body, and their hair.
  • To try new things. They're playing “dress up” and “hide-and-seek” with their identity, trying on several personalities to see what fits. They're impulsive and scattered, they're up, and they are down, and it even looks like they've regressed in their development in their quest for independence.

As a parent, you are changing as well while you're entering the stage of parenting when you abandon the naïve platform of “My kid would never do that” to the realization that, “I’m sure my kid did that. I’m sorry, and please excuse their behavior, they're going through a phase.”

Your daily list of parenting instruction might include statements such as the following:

  • "If you cannot say anything polite, don’t say anything at all!"
  • "How many times should I tell you not the use that word?"
  • "Don't flip that bottle!"
  • "Stop burping the ABC’s!"
  • "You are acting like a 3-year-old."
  • "What were you thinking?"

And then it happens: Perhaps because we are exhausted from their endless begging to use our mobile, or because we believe that all their friends own one, or because we merely want to upgrade ours to the latest model…we give in. We act on impulse. Our mind seems to regress like theirs, and we offer them our old smartphone.

With that one little decision, which seems harmless, comes the world of social media access—something we hadn't thought about and something none of us is ready to see. Because the midbrain is reorganizing itself, risk-taking is high, when impulse control is low, I can’t think of a worse time in a kid’s life to have access to social media than that of middle school. Here are several reasons why:

1) Social media is not designed for children. A child's underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t handle the distraction nor the temptation that come with social media use. When you start to responsible use of tech now, remember that you won't be able to explain the maturity that social media requires. It's like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big; kids will misuse social media until they are old enough and it fits them better.

2) Social media is a technology designed for fun and entertainment. It does not make your kids smarter or more prepared for real life or for a future job; nor is it essential for healthy social development. It's pure entertainment linked to a marketing platform extracting pieces of personal information from your kid every time they use it; what's more hours of their time and attention.

3) A young person's “more is better” mentality is a tricky match for social media. Do they really have 1,800 friends? Do they really need to be online nine hours per day? Social media encourages children to have countless friend connections as they tend to overdo in other aspects of their lives.

4) Social media is an addictive type of screen entertainment. Such as video game addiction, early use can affect future addiction patterns and habits.

5) Social media replaces learning the difficult social "work" of dealing face-to-face with friends, a skill that they'll need to practice to succeed in real life.

6) Social media can lead teens to lose connection with their family and instead see their “friends” as their foundation. While the cognitive brain is still being formed, your teen's need to be attached to your family is significantly strong. While they need attachments to their (real or social media) friends, they also need healthy family attachment more.

7) Social media use represents lost the potential for teens. While one can claim that there are certain advantages of social media for teens, the costs are really high during the teen years while their brain development is operating for learning new things. It's easy for teens to waste too much of their time and brain in a digital world. Many studies show that it's almost impossible for them to balance it all.

So, to help those kids slow down, we first need to reconsider what we allow them to do. We need to understand the social media world better and try to see it through our children's eyes. Here are several tips that can work well:

1) Delay access. The longer a parent delays access to social media, the more time a kid will have to mature so that they can use technology more wisely as a young adult. This practice also places a greater importance on building personal authentic relationships first.

2) Follow your children's accounts. Social media privacy is a myth: In the digital world, nothing is private. Make sure privacy settings are in place but remember that those settings can give you a fake sense of security. Encourage your kid to have private conversations in person or via a mobile phone call instead unless they want you to see it on social media.

3) Create family accounts.Family accounts work better than individual teen accounts. That lets kids keep up with their peers in a safer social media environment.

4) Allow the use of social media only on large screens, such as home computers or laptops in plain view, so that they use it less. When it's used on a small mobile screen which kids can put in their pocket, there are more possibilities for reckless use. The more secret the access is, the more potential for bad choices there will be.

5) Keep a sharp eye on the clock; they won't. Do you know how much time your kid spends on social media per day? Be aware of that, and reduce the amount of this time. The average teen spends around nine hours per day connected to social media. Try to set one time each day for three days a week for your kid to check their social media. They don't need more time than that.

6) Plan face-to-face time with their mates. Remember that they don’t need 1,000 friends; around five close friends are enough for your kid yo have healthy social development. Help them learn how to plan actual, in-person, social get-togethers like a leave-phones-at-the-door party, a movie night, a board games night, or hosting a bonfire. They crave those social gatherings so encourage them to invite friends often and help them to organize the event if it's needed.

7) Spend more non-tech time together. Teens who are strongly attached to their family become more happy and successful in life. When they're still young, they need us more than ever. It's easy to detach from them as teens can be annoying! However, attaching to their parents allows them to detach from the social media drama temporarily. Your kid needs to feel as they can come home and leave the drama of their online world behind for a couple of hours. They need you to help them stay away from social media and encourage more time with the family. They're craving these moments to disconnect, so make plans for them!

For more help balancing social media use from Melanie Hempe of Families Managing Media, click here.

To learn how to reverse the dysregulating effects of screen-time on your child's mood, focus, and behavior, see Reset Your Child's Brain.

Reference: Psychology Today


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Thinking Humanity: The Reasons Why Middle School Kids Shouldn't Use Social Media
The Reasons Why Middle School Kids Shouldn't Use Social Media
If you've been through middle-school parenting, you might have noticed that strange things seem to happen to a child’s brain the first day they walk into school.
Thinking Humanity
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