Heathdale flower 05th June 2024

Children and Social Media

As social media becomes increasingly embedded in children's lives, it is crucial for parents to take proactive steps to safeguard their mental health and ensure positive influences online.

Heathdale flower

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of our children’s lives, one area demands our immediate attention: social media.

Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Discord have become integral to children’s daily routines. Legally, children should be 13 years old before they are allowed to sign up for most social media platforms. However, the known reality is that younger children are active on these platforms. 

Psychologists and mental health experts are pushing for governments to restrict the age to 16+, which is happening in some states in the USA as they respond to the mental health crisis brought on in part by the effects of social media use. There is a campaign in Australia to do the same. Social media companies are pushing against these changes because of the billions of dollars in revenue they earn from advertising to children. 

Recently, more awareness has been brought into the space of problem gambling and the horrible effect this can have on individuals and families. Knowing this, it’s time to address a critical question: are you willing to gamble on your children’s mental health?

The Gamble of Mental Health

Social media can often seem harmless and fun, allowing children to connect with friends and stay updated on the latest trends. But beneath the surface lies a more troubling reality. Studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to anxiety, depression and a host of other mental health issues. The constant comparison, cyberbullying and unrealistic portrayals of life can create a toxic environment that your children are ill-equipped to navigate.

Are you willing to risk it happening to your child? The stakes are too high. Each moment they spend unsupervised online, they are exposed to potential harm that can affect their well-being. Let’s not gamble on their future.

The Issue of Discipleship

In addition to the mental health risks, there’s another layer of concern: who and what is influencing your children? Social media platforms are rife with influencers who may not share your values or have your children’s best interests at heart. The constant stream of content can subtly shape their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours in ways you might not even realise.

It is one thing to send your child to Heathdale Christian College for its Christian education and values. But do you truly know who is shaping your children online? Are you confident that the voices they hear and the images they see are guiding them in a positive direction? Take a closer look and ensure that your children’s minds and hearts are being shaped by trustworthy sources.

The Reality of Risks

The belief that “it won’t happen to my child” is a dangerous gamble. The truth is, no child is immune to the pitfalls of social media. Whether it’s cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content or the insidious pressure to conform to unrealistic standards, every child is at risk.

As parents and guardians, it’s your responsibility to protect your children. Set boundaries, encourage open communication and give them the tools to navigate the digital world safely. This isn’t about fearmongering; it’s about being proactive and informed.

Taking Action

What can you do to safeguard your children? Recognise the harm of your child being on social media if younger than 16.

Set Clear Boundaries: Establish limits on screen time and monitor the content they are accessing. Do not allow screen time in private spaces or past a child’s bedtime.

Open Communication: Foster an environment where your children feel comfortable discussing their online experiences with you.

Educate: Teach your children about the potential risks of social media and the importance of critical thinking.

Be Involved: Know who your children are following and what they are posting. Engage in their digital lives just as you do in their offline lives.

Together, we can ensure that our children are not left to navigate the complexities of social media alone. Let’s make informed choices and not gamble on their mental health and well-being.

“Parental monitoring is vital. Walk past and see what your child is doing, who they are talking to, and what sites they are on. Be aware if their mood changes. This is NOT invading their privacy at all… it is parenting in the digital space. Have a family internet contract and set house rules about what information your child can put onto websites or share with others” (McLean, 2018)

Learn more about online safety for every family via eSafetyCommissioner.