The online world is now an important part of everyday life and this is starting to impact the generation of young people growing up with social media.
Children aged five to 15 are spending 15 hours a week online, making it a major influence in their lives.
That’s more time than they spend outdoors, with three quarters of children aged 5 to 12 spending less than an hour playing outside each day.
Social Media Bingeing As Bad As Junk Food
Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, spoke out in a recent interview and urged parents to try to limit how much time their children were spending online.
With the UK school holidays in full swing, Longfield criticised social media firms for using new methods to encourage kids to spend more time online.
Likening time spent online to junk food, Longfield said parents should treat screen time as they treat sweets and other sugary foods, and limit their children’s intake.
While it’s ok to let kids have the odd taste of junk food, it’s not something parents should be including with every meal.
Social media use has been linked with anxiety and other mental health problems in teens. The ubiquitous nature of social media, coupled with FOMO (fear of missing out), plus the constant availability of social media, is thought to be connected to an increase in mental health problems experienced by teenagers. One study found that moderate screen use can boost wellbeing.
Longfield has launched the ‘digital five a day’ campaign to encourage families to be mindful of how much time they spend online. The campaign focuses on:
- Connection – banning social media isn’t a fair option because many teens use this as a way of staying connected with their friends out of school hours. However, parents should be aware that social media can allow strangers to connect with their kids, too.
- Staying active – there are only so many hours in the week. If kids are spending 15 hours a week online, that means they’re not spending 15 hours a week doing other activities. Spending time outdoors and exercising is important for wellbeing, so families should find ways of getting out and staying active.
- Creativity – the campaign urges parents to get creative with their child’s online time. Rather than focusing on passively consuming content on social media, parents are encouraged to engage their children in practical learning activities.
- Giving – this part of the campaign focuses on how young people can give back to their communities. Online bullying happens everyday and the campaign encourages kids to speak out when they see it happening.
- Mindfulness – young people are encouraged to monitor their own online time and, most importantly, pay attention to how it makes them feel. The hope is that this will help young people to develop healthy internet habits.
Find out what happened when BellyBelly’s Kelly banned her kids from television and other screens.