Children, Technology and Social Media – Food for Thought

Clinical Psychologist Eliza Charalambous—Kells

What is the first thing we do when we open your eyes? Most adults begin their day with some kind of interaction with technology and social media. Some open up Facebook and browse, others scroll through Instagram while some turn on Youtube and watch their favourite influencer. It seems nearly impossible to avoid, and this is becoming true for children as well. It has become commonplace for children to interact with technology and social media platforms from a very young age. This brings up a set of very important questions that parents need to consider. Firstly, how young is too young? Does it matter if a two year old uses the phone to play games? Secondly, when should children be allowed onto different platforms? And what should we be taking into consideration when trying to set healthy boundaries and limits regarding this?

These questions arise from the concern about the effects of technology and social media on the development of children. Never before has it been more prevalent, and in reality, we do not yet know the long term effects this can have on children’s psychological well-being. Research is a good place for parents to start looking for information that can guide their decisions. However, a vital question comes up: with the rate of change and development of technology and social media, can research keep up? One starting point could be to consider each side of the coin. What positive and negative effects could possibly arise?

Without healthy limits, technology and social media could skew a child’s perspective of the “real world”. Even adults can become affected by scrolling through Instagram which is in essence a “highlight reel” of people’s lives, skewing even a grown up’s expectation of how happy they should be or what they could be missing out on. Overuse and unhealthy use could possibly lead to social isolation, dependence, or even addiction.

However, is it unreasonable to think that they can be or even should be shielded from it. It seems to be the way of the world currently and also the way of the future, and as such ignorance of this medium may only serve to disadvantage children in their futures. Learning to navigate and maintain healthy perspective seems to be one way parents can protect their children. Empowering children to use their own internal resources to protect themselves may be the ultimate safeguard. Because it seems no matter how hard a parent tries to keep their child away, it is an inevitable fact that at some point they will encounter it. Thus, maybe the biggest and most important question is this: how will you, as a parent, prepare your child to safeguard themselves?