You are not your social media

At the end of last week, a new report from England’s children’s commissioner called for schools to better support tweens with the emotional impact of social media. I was asked to write my thoughts in response on Premier Christianity’s blog, as it ties in with a subject I cover in Taking Off the Mask. Here’s an extract:

Is our desire for ‘Likes’ causing us harm?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media websites and apps have minimum age limits (often 13) in order to protect children. But a new report from England’s children’s commissioner says that three-quarters of 10–12 year olds already have accounts. The commissioner, Anne Longfield, this week called for schools not only to provide e-safety education, but work more closely with children as they move from primary to secondary school in order to prepare them for the emotional impact engaging more heavily with social media will have on them.

Our children are growing up in the culture of the selfie. This reinforces the notion that we are judged by what we look like. In that vital, yet delicate, period of learning more about who they are as people the digital world can often pile on extra, unhelpful pressure.

The commissioner’s report found that children were far too dependent on ‘likes’, looking to social media for much of their validation as people. Here are some of the children’s comments:

  • “If I got 150 likes, I’d be like, ‘that’s pretty cool, it means they like you'” – Aaron, 11
  • “I just edit my photos to make sure I look nice” – Annie, 11
  • “I saw a pretty girl and everything she has I want, my aim is to be like her” – Bridie, 11

The report may have looked solely at the impact on children, but in my own work I’ve found that the emotional impact of social media can be felt just as keenly by us adults.

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