How can you help children deal with social media anxiety?

Internet Matters’ expert panel weighs in on how you can help your child with social media anxiety such as the fear of missing out and feeling pressured to constantly post online.

Teen boy anxiously using mobile phone

Karl Hopwood

Independent online safety expert
Expert Website

When our children start using social media, it brings with it a pressure to look a certain way, behave a certain way to fit in and look cool, and for some, they believe that their popularity is defined by the number of likes and comments. Some research done by girl guiding found that 1/3 of 11-21 year old girls said they wouldn’t post a selfie on social media unless they used an app or filter to enhance it – a third also said that if they posted something which didn’t attract enough likes or comments, they would delete it.

We need to talk to our children and help them to understand that it’s okay to be themselves. Social media shows the polished, edited highlights of someone’s life – the best bits, some would say – but they should be accepted for who they are and should equally be accepting and uncritical of others. We all have a role to play and, as parents, we need to set the right example.

Most importantly – tell them what to do if something goes wrong or they are upset – being able to talk to you (or someone) is vital.

Dr Elizabeth Milovidov, JD

Law Professor and Digital Parenting Expert
Expert Website

Social media allows our children opportunities to connect, network and interact with a wider world.  Unfortunately, sometimes those interactions can cause anxiety in children and the Internet Matters experts have provided advice on what to do if you feel your child is suffering because of social media stress, how parents can understand social media pressure, as well as ways to find support on social media.

The important thing for parents and carers to realise is that they really can help their children deal with pressures to post, to comment, to respond to a friend, or even to engage in the latest viral challenge.  When parents have regular, open and non-judgmental conversations about their children’s online activities, they may gain insight into what their children are dealing with online.

Once that conversation is started, parents can encourage children to think critically about what they do online, to examine their feelings about what they see online, and to discuss what is real or exaggerated.

That first step – opening up those conversations – is one of the best ways to provide a safe support system for your child.

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