In a world full of media and technology, influencing children to connect to themselves, so they can make their own unbiased decisions, is now more important than ever. Recent evidence raises concerns about the impact of social media on society today: increased aggression, sexual behaviour, substance use, disordered eating, and academic difficulties.
Are children so influenced by the media, that it affects their decision making? Decisions children may regret in later life, that go against their moral beliefs and ethics? Recent research has shown that there is a link between social media use and narcissism: the use of social networking websites may have an adverse effect on social decision-making and reduce levels of empathy. Is this making our children out of tune with what’s going on around them and insensitive towards others?
Although social media can produce positive outcomes for children, it most definitely was not developed to assist in children’s emotional and social development. It really should come with a safe user-friendly manual, because a lot of social media content is unsuitable for children, while lots of images are not ‘real life’ and give children a false sense of what is real. An over filtered picture can be a completely different one to how a person appears in real life. Both Facebook and photo-sharing site Instagram require users to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account, and in some jurisdictions, this age limit may be higher. Despite this, children are on social media as young as six years old, with it being reported that 25% of Facebook users are under the age of ten. Unfortunately, these children’s parents are not seeing or recognising the potential dangers, and many are helping their children illegally set up accounts.
Psychologists have long observed the negative impact of social media on the mental health of children and young people. One finding suggests that children spending more than 3 hours a day on social media are twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health. Their immersion in a virtual world, delays their emotional & social development in the real one. My children are 9 and10; they refuse to have social media accounts, despite the fact they have full parental consent. They do have handheld devices though-which I limit their times on accordingly. I am, however, very aware if they have spent excessive time on them: you can see the effects of a virtual world through the expression of negative and unreasonable emotional responses.
Although from becoming a teenager, children are legally allowed on these sites, statistics show that the adverse effects on teenagers are much stronger. One report, by the IZA Institute of Labour Economics, suggests that spending only an hour a day on social media can make a teen miserable. It could be due to the influence of social comparisons, cyberbullying and decreased person-person contact.
According to guard child, 88% of teens witnessed a person act cruelly towards someone using the platform of social media, whilst a massive 41% state that they have had an unpleasant experience as a result of a social networking site. A worrying 55% of teens have given out their personal information to strangers. The most alarming figure of all is that is that 81% of internet-initiated crimes which led to a face to face meeting, had arisen from contact through Facebook. Many users claim they don’t even know how to use the privacy controls on the site. They are evidently not aware of the potential dangers and in my opinion, not mature enough to be using the site.
The constant connectivity and peer pressure of social media can place a huge amount of stress on a teen. According to Dr Donna Wick, a clinical and developmental psychologist, some children never get a break from the constant stress of social media, which can lead to problems with anxiety. She feels everybody needs, “a respite from the demands of intimacy and connection; time alone to regroup, replenish and just chill out.” As an adult, social media can often cause me anxiety and to experience unpleasant emotions, so what’s it doing to our future adult generation? Evidently, we must intervene before social media stress becomes an epidemic. How can we get children away from the screen to keep them safe? How can we help combat anxiety and help them set strong, positive foundations they can carry through life with them? We can take them away from connecting with the screen and start connecting with themselves.
Yoga is fast becoming one of the most popular complementary health practices, with over 1.7 million children and teens practising yoga. YogaBears, as well as their signature classes for 2-10s, are now offering youth movement and mindfulness programs specially designed for ‘tweens’ and teens to help reduce stress, improve moods, and promote physical fitness.
At YogaBears, we believe that Yoga during this formative period is essential for developing healthy exercise habits in general, as well as strength, flexibility, and balance. The experience helps them to connect with themselves and their own autonomy, aiding them to make mindful decisions about themselves, without the bias of social media.
The timing of yoga for teens is also particularly important for the mind because the brain continues to develop throughout the early to late teenage years. The prefrontal cortex is the area behind the forehead and is known as the ‘CEO of the brain’ for its ability to plan, organise, and regulate your mood. The development of the prefrontal cortex gives you the ability to concentrate and think, rather than act on impulse, and is critical to being successful throughout life stages, whether in academics, career, or relationships.
Sadly, we have found out, through our YogaBears work with schools, that social media is having a negative effect- resulting in many high-achieving students plateauing academically. Reports suggest that social media is affecting their confidence, which in turn, may well be affecting the frontal cortex of the brain thus causing teenagers to act upon impulse, rather than act mindfully. This reaction can cause them to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour which then results in a negative response when disciplined, thus creating an endless, negative cycle.
According to Eveline A. Crone et al, emotional needs may affect adolescents’ media use and processing; for example, feeling lonely may lead to the path of relying on social media for one’s main form of social interaction. Whilst being engaged with social media may evoke strong emotional reactions, the difficulty is in experiencing online rejection. Adolescents, in particular, appear to be guided by their emotions in how they use and process media. Eveline A creatively found that the degree of anger and frustration experienced by early-to-mid adolescent victims of bullying was associated with increased exposure to media portraying antisocial, norm-crossing and risk-taking behaviour, over time, making these youngsters more likely to become bullies themselves.
Social media can certainly affect children’s moral behaviour, which they may go on to recreate in later life or worse, hurt someone and show no remorse. Through our Youth yoga programme, we are reaching out to children at their level. Yoga is not something they need to learn, it is something they already are. It is within them. Through our fun flowing sequences, our young students feel freer and less stressed- less trapped by social media. By restoring children’s confidence through yoga, we are allowing them to feel empowered. We are allowing them to discover their own abilities and philosophies. We are allowing this so that they become competent in pursuit of their own happiness, rather than what social media is telling them will make them happy.
Throughout our YogaBears classes, we promote self- love: children learn to put themselves first, which creates a strong sense of self- a, self that cannot be blurred or filtered by social media. We aim for our students to be a self that will make a difference to the world by being real; people who show real love to others.
Look out for our amazing Elle’s blog on teaching YogaBears in schools and our mindfulness guide to social media -which will be released very soon!
Love & light
Health effects of media on children and adolescents Victor C Strasburger, Amy B Jordan, Ed Donnerstein Pediatrics 125 (4), 756-767, 2010 • Mrunal in Big KidEducation Education Preschooler Impact of Social Media on Children 7 Ways Yoga Helps Children | Media use and brain development during adolescence