There’s a lot of buzz about children and their supposed “social media addiction.” However, all this fear-mongering may not have as much of a source in reality as it may seem.
First, let’s look at the terminology. A recent academic publication criticized describing children’s social media use as “addiction.” UNICEF has also said that the term is an exaggeration.
What parents and other concerned adults might really be worried about is the relationship between social media and depression. But there’s not much evidence about that, either. Psychologist Dr. Andrew Przybylski explains that the correlation isn’t convincing. He said that based on the so-called data available, eating potatoes is just as bad for you. (Even listening to music has a greater negative impact on mental health.)
There is nothing new under the sun. Media watchdogs used to caution about how mass shootings were rooted in violent video games, an idea that’s now dismissed.
Concerns about social media’s effect on mental health are back in the headlines after Facebook announced plans to unveil a new child-oriented Messenger app. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, or CCFC, urged Facebook to reconsider. Common Sense Media, or CSM, is joining forces with former Facebook and Google executives to create a lobbying arm against “tech addiction.”
Author and psychologist Dr. Chris Ferguson notes that even these two efforts should be taken with a grain of salt. He says that both CCFC and CSM are non-profit groups that depend on donations, and that their product is fear.
Ultimately, the most important factor may be how social media is used. One study says “vaguebooking,” or making vague calls for help, does point to suicidal inclinations. Dr. Ferguson recommends that fear must be set aside in order for families to create a more positively connected society – both on- and offline.