Social Media Continues to Stress Out Kids And Destroy Childhoods

Girl shocked by phoneHey, here’s a new concern about kids and technology that I’ve never thought about before but should have! Turns out there is a real relationship between self-esteem and the Like button. I’ve been so worried about my kids not hooking up with pedophiles that I haven’t even thought about what social media will mean to their feelings about themselves. The number of “Likes” they get or “Friends” they have is a numerical, measurable way to assess their popularity and worth. Huzzah, the internet!

Kelly Wallace from CNN posted a column yesterday looking at this issue, particularly as it affects girls. She found that Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat (only one of which I understand) cause a great deal of anxiety among kids and a lot of FOMO. If you’re like me, you thought, “F***er Of a Mother…Oh?” But no, this stands for Fear Of Missing Out, also known as my entire life.

Instead of hearing about all the fun things people did without you from the whispers in school on Monday like I did when I was young, today’s kids can see their friends hanging out without them in real time. No wonder so many kids are glued to their devices — I can say for certain that I would have been checking my phone constantly if I had had this kind of technology when I was a kid. And crying. I also would have been crying constantly.

And beyond the “everyone really is hanging out without me” factor, there is also the “Like” button factor. Even adults feel the pressure of the Like button, and we have actual lives to live and real things to worry about. In Wallace’s column, she introduced me to a horrific thing called “The 100 Club”:

The teens and tweens also agreed there is a constant — and at times anxiety-inducing — fixation with likes. “People will be like, ‘Oh, are you in the 100 club?’ ” Sadie said of getting 100 or more likes for a post.

The 15-year-old told the story of a friend who changed her profile picture and didn’t get the 200 likes she normally gets on the first night whenever she makes such a change.

“She was freaking out,” she said.

Oh sweet Mary and Joseph, the 100 Club? Just thinking about it makes me want to put on something neon and tight-roll my Z. Cavariccis.

The best thing we can do is talk to our kids about it “early and often” says Diana Graber, co-founder of Remind them that numbers on social media are not equivocal to how worthwhile a person they are. And those parents who worry about how many “friends” or “followers” they have should probably stop doing that so much, especially in front of their kids. If those numbers don’t matter to Mom and Dad, maybe it will give their child a little more perspective.

And I thought counting the number of Valentines you got at school on Valentine’s Day was stressful. Dang.

(Photo: Antonio Guilliem / Shutterstock)

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