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Five dangers of (mis)using social media by minors and four tips

Tuesday, 21 February 2023
There is an open social debate in relation to whether the use of new technologies, which include social networks , is positive or negative. There are indisputable elements in favor such as the fact that these new tools encourage the connection between people directly and quickly; making society more connected. Without forgetting the indisputable role they play in facilitating the sharing of information.
There are neutral opinions that ensure that technology does not make a society better or worse, but that it is simply a very powerful communication tool that magnifies what already exists.

What is clear is that in contexts such as the COVID-19 crisis, in which the world went from being offline to online, society embraced and turned to social networks and technologies to stay connected, in a moment in which the situation demanded changes that would help to "normalize" this new situation. The benefits in terms of teleworking and connecting relationships with family and friends are indisputable.

But... what implications did these changes have on the consumption habits of minors? Without a doubt, one of the groups most affected during the confinement were boys and girls. The lockdown made outdoor activities, extracurricular activities and plans with friends go up in smoke. And what consequences did this have? Data extracted from a study carried out by Qustodio as significant as these (study carried out on families with sons and daughters between 4 and 15 years of age from Spain, the USA and the United Kingdom):
  • Since the beginning of COVID-19, the consumption of social networks by minors was 76% more.
  • In 2020 the use of educational applications grew by 54% , with Spain being the region where it increased the most (reaching 17 minutes per day).
  • Daily exposure to online video applications increased by 25% (ie, an average of 45 minutes per day).
  • Netflix gained 25 million new subscribers in the first half of 2020.
It is clear that the need for entertainment for so many hours a day was the cause of the increased use of screens during that time. Beyond these data contextualized in an exceptional situation, the reality is that boys and girls spend a lot of time exposed to social networks.

A study carried out by Kelisto.es shows that the population between the ages of 12 and 17 has an addiction to social networks of around 18%. These data are related to habits such as being online for more than two hours a day, having more than 500 friends online or playing on the computer for more than 2.6 hours a day. All these behaviors can be indications of being able to develop dysfunctional behavior.

It is necessary to consider how the use of social networks affects minors. This group is extremely vulnerable and focus must be placed to avoid the dangers that misuse of these tools can cause.

Five main dangers of the use of social networks in minors and adolescents

1. Addiction:
An excessive use of social networks takes time away from other activities and interacting with friends and family in their day to day. The so-called digital natives find a new way to interact on social networks. Since they are born they are surrounded by devices and they grow up watching their elders use them.

José M. Martínez Sánchez, epidemiologist and head of the COVID-19 Determinants Assessment Group at the International University of Catalonia (UIC) comments that "the increasingly frequent use of screens is related to an insufficient number of hours of sleep and with a greater risk of suffering emotional and behavioral problems in the child population”.

2. Cyberbullying:
This practice of harassment has as a common characteristic the fact that those who suffer it usually have some physical or emotional difference. It gains even more strength when it comes to cyberbullying , due to the anonymity that allows this form of violence to be exercised virtually; without the need to show face.

3. Grooming:
A type of sexual harassment that takes place over the Internet. These types of practices are generated when an adult tries to gain the trust of a minor from a social network, to manipulate him for a sexual purpose: getting videos, photos... that he will later use to blackmail and extort him.

4. Fake News:
Fake news is the order of the day. If it is often difficult for an adult to distinguish whether what they are seeing is real or not, it is even more complex for minors. Fake news spreads like wildfire through social networks, which are the perfect tools to go viral.

Minors are vulnerable in this context, and it is important to help them know how to distinguish real news from what is not, with videos like this one from Safe Internet for kids.

6. Distortion of reality:
Social networks are full of influencers who show, most of the time through filters, their day to day. These filters distort reality, causing insecurities in minors and directly impacting their self-esteem.

Here we leave you some data that is extracted from a study carried out by the body care brand Dove among more than 500 girls between the ages of 10 and 17:
  • 72% of Spanish girls at the age of 13 have already downloaded a filter or retouching application.
  • One in four young people don't look good enough if they don't edit their photos.
  • 20% admit to being disappointed in real life for not looking the same as the photos they upload to their social networks.

Four tips to avoid the dangers of misuse of social networks by minors

1. Leading by example:
It is important that the elderly make good use of technology and social networks. Be respectful of what is published and what is consumed.

2. Digital literacy: The fact that they are a digital native generation does not mean that they know how to proceed at all times. You have to teach them so that they learn the essentials so that their passage through social networks is as safe as possible. Basics such as the fact that they should never share their personal data over the Internet , or not talk to strangers (as they would not do on the street) are knowledge that will undoubtedly allow proper integration into social networks.

3. Control: For this you have to be informed of basic issues such as from what age you can use each social network. José Martín Aguado , a teacher for adolescents and a contributor to empantallados.com , provides information in this regard:
  • 14 years for Instagram
  • 13 years for Tik Tok
  • 16 years for WhatsApp

Control measures for the proper use of minors in social networks:
  • It is necessary to be aware of what they publish and be close when they use the internet (especially in the case of the little ones).
  • Keep the webcam always off.
  • Agree rules of use.
  • Have a good antivirus and an advertising blocker.
  • Get hold of parental control systems.
4. Communication, communication and communication: Build trust and work on your emotions. Explain what are the problems of misuse of social networks with real cases and transfer that they can also suffer it themselves.

It is important for all areas of life (not only in this context at hand) to work on self-esteem and confidence in the child. In this way, the pillars will be established that will allow them not to falter when receiving the barrage of inputs that social networks inevitably bring.

Spending quality time with the family is essential for communication to flow and to detect possible behaviors derived from misuse of social networks . It is often important to get out of the daily routine and find spaces and quality time with the family. The outdoors and a natural environment without distractions are undoubtedly the allies for this scenario to happen.

At El Jou Nature we will be happy to assist you and explain all our family leisure proposals to live, enjoy and discover new experiences as a family.
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