Growing up in the age of pervasive social media.
Rage bait. Thirst traps. Witch hunts. Trauma dumps. These are just a few of the problematic themes that can crop up on social media, according to Middle School Academic Technology Coordinator Nate Green, who spoke to parents this month at a special tech talk called “Teens and TikTok.” And though Green started the discussion by bringing up TikTok, he warned parents to be wary of all social media platforms, which can send viewers down algorithmic rabbit holes that eat away at kids’ self-esteem.
Studies show that teens, inundated with quick screen shots and videos, fall prey to overstimulation and feel like they need to watch three screens at once to feel engaged. And with programmatic algorithms designed to keep them watching, teens often start to act and think like a social media clip, Green said. The effects of split-second media consumption on how kids behave is critical—and worrying. Green calls these behaviors—like changes in diet, a desire for new products, a change in how teens dress—“second-order effects,” which can be consequences of consuming too many mental and physical messages. As Green noted, one 8th grader he spoke with thinks social media forces kids to grow up more quickly.
Green encouraged parents to hold off on allowing access to social media platforms for as long as possible, to make sure kids’ accounts are private if and when they do get access, to watch images and videos with their kids (or over their shoulders), to monitor the amount of screen time kids have, and to “investigate changes in kids’ decisions” away from screens. The encouraging news is that Green believes many Sidwell Friends students are aware of the risks and downsides to overconsumption of social media—in part thanks to classes that discuss it. “They’re wise to it,” said Green. Even so, he cautions, parents should revisit the platforms their kids are using often and keep monitoring the messages young people are internalizing.
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