Five experts have examined the effects of social networks on children and adolescents. If these virtual exchanges can exacerbate depressive symptoms and lead to loss of self esteem, they also have beneficial aspects, allowing to strengthen social ties.

If you have children, there's a good chance you worry about their presence on social media. Who are they talking about ? What do they put online ? Are they harassed ? Do they spend too much time ? Do they realize that the lives of their friends is not as extraordinary as what they post on Instagram ? We asked five experts whether social media harmful to children and adolescents.
The four experts who believe that social media is harmful rely on their negative effects on mental health, the risk of developing sleep disorders, the cyberharcèlement, negative comparison with others, degradation of the perception of his body, or because of issues related to privacy.

However, They also agreed that social media can have positive effects by connecting youth with each other, and they recognize that living without access could be ostracizing.

For Mary Yap, who heard a dissenting voice, Social media are not harmful in themselves, but the problems arise from the way they are used.

Joanne Orlando, researcher (Western Sydney University)

" Yes, if too much information on the life of a child is found publicly available online. Children have the right to privacy. It is even one of the rights mentioned in the Convention on Child Rights. When online sharing of child pictures, to consider the short- and long-term consequences that this gesture will for them.

The repercussions can affect not only their safety, but also the possibility of not having to drag behind them, throughout their lives, digital traces of their personal history. They must also have the opportunity to shape their digital identity as they please, so they feel comfortable.

Until they are able to do so themselves, this task is delegated to parents. This role is temporary, it is important to be cautious, in particular regarding the duration of what we choose to share, and the ways in which videos, images and comments that concern is shared. »

Karyn Healy, psychologist (University of Queensland)

" Yes, social media can cause damage. Unhindered access can expose youth to cyberstalking. They may also be faced with unsuitable content including the consultation can be devastating. The algorithms suggestion content that rely on interest centers may for example amplify any tendency to depression and self-harm, which can increase the risk of suicide. The managers of these networks have also been encouraged by the government to make changes to reduce these risks.

There is also concern that excessive time spent on social media reduces the time spent in social interaction and physical activity. However, Yet the data on this subject are inconclusive.

Despite these dangers, it is difficult to prevent access to social media. Not only because, being cut is also associated with a smaller welfare, but also because the social bonds that can weave it strengthen friendships, and can give children a protective support against depression and harassment. Through social media, young people can contact others to share about the problems of the planet, which can benefit all.

To reduce risk, Parents can set the access to ensure that their children consult only suitable platforms for their age, and discuss with them how to use social networks. »

Susan J Paxton, Professor of Psychology (La Trobe University)

" Yes, the use of social media, especially the frequent use of social media sharing photos based, is detrimental to the mental health of young. Teenagers looking to find their place in the world. One way to do this is to compare their lives with those of their friends, peers and celebrities presented on social media. Or, comparisons they make are usually negative, because people share the most attractive images they can produce. One can understand the, but as a result of comparison points which are based teenagers are unrealistic and idealized.

In addition, Girls in particular tend to make comparisons on aspects of themselves they already suspect or make unhappy. Therefore, the use of social media at high levels can exacerbate depressive symptoms, lead to loss of self esteem, representation of the problems of his body, and eating disorders. For most teenagers, live in the real world is hard enough. Needless to unrealistic pressure idealized worlds that social media offer. »

Tracii Ryan, Researcher education (University of Melbourne)

" Yes, the use of social media can have a negative impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Empirical research on the use of social media shows that young people can experience psychological distress when exposed to cyberbullying, au cyberostracisme, the cyberstalking, or if they tend to devalue when compare to others.

Young children may also experience anxiety and develop sleep disturbances if they become inadvertently inappropriate images on social media. However, Many of these risks are not unique to the online world - they existed long before social media become available. Moreover, we must recognize that these negative psychological effects do not automatically apply to all young people who use social media. In reality, research suggests that the use of social media can improve the psychological well-being of some of them, for example by reducing the loneliness of young people who have few social contacts or who suffer from social anxiety when they come face to others. »

Maria Make, Professor of Psychology (Monash University)

"Social media themselves are neutral tools ; it's how, the what, who, when and why they use that determines the consequences of their attendance. They are now ubiquitous in our lives, and more in our children and adolescents, born in the digital era. In making enemies, focusing only on the negative aspects and prohibiting their use, is likely to have adverse effects.

Rather, it is essential to educate children and young people to cybersecurity and responsible use of social media. In addition, parents / people who are in charge of young children should constantly supervise them and provide advice. Do not hesitate to engage with them in the use of social media, setting limits (for example, with whom they share and what they share), and leaving them free to establish a responsible use themselves.

As for teens, who are seeking greater autonomy vis-à-vis their parents (which is healthy and normal !), we must have with them an open discussion on the advantages and potential disadvantages of using social media, and agree on the limits necessary to properly manage their use. »


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