The Dark Side of Social Media: 5 Dangers to Be Wary Of
Social media comes with the promise of a lot of fun – smiley photos, video clips, funny messages, memes, gifs, likes, loves and shares.
But what happens when the reactions aren’t ‘Like’ or ‘Love’? What happens if the comments are mean or cruel instead?
Kids are under immense pressure in today’s ‘Look at me!’ world. It’s become the norm to judge ourselves and others by the number of followers and reactions that we garner on social media – but using social media stats as the bar against which self-confidence is measured can be extremely harmful.
We’ve delved into the heart of social media use to find the 5 most prominent dangers that we need to be aware of:
1) ???? Body Image
Social media platforms, such as Instagram, are flooded with photos and selfies of users trying to show their best self, but the images are often heavily filtered, edited and photoshopped – so what we see is often unattainable.
When kids only see picture-perfect imagery, they may start to question themselves – how they look, and how others see them. Throw in puberty and changing bodies, and suddenly there’s a maelstrom of uncertainty.
Using social media, we scrutinize images over and over again. The search for “perfection” can be obsessive and unhealthy, and bring up all kinds of insecurities – so much so that the AAFPRS reported that the dramatic 2021 increase in facial reconstruction requests stemmed from ‘selfie awareness’, triggered by overuse of social media.
2) ???? Online Privacy
Generation Z are notoriously laissez faire when it comes to online privacy – private details such as address, habits, check-ins and locations are often splashed across social media. The culture of ‘sharing’ on social media can lead to an over-sharing of personal information. This can lead to doxing – hackers steal information gleaned from social media cybersecurity breaches to set up fake accounts based on a person’s profile, friends lists, and likes or dislikes.
By 2021, it was estimated that 43 million Americans had experienced doxing – leading to publishing of personal details, harassment, embarrassment, and loss of personal information.
3) ???? Cyberbullying
Despite international efforts to prevent cyberbullying, harassment on social media apps is still on the rise. Currently, the top three social media apps most associated with cyberbullying are YouTube – where 79% of users have reported a form of cyberbullying, Snapchat (69%), and TikTok (64%).
Cyberbullying includes sending or sharing harmful or embarrassing content, trolling, and making malicious comments. By posting online anonymously, cyberbullies can write whatever they want, without fear of repercussions. This trend is causing a really nasty side of humanity to emerge.
Cyberbullying can affect mental health and can cause physical harm, self-isolation, anger, and mistrust of those around you – making it harder for the victim to confide in someone.
4) ???? Predators
One of the best things about social media is the ability to connect with people all around the world, from all walks of life – but the flip side is that this is also one of its biggest dangers. Cyber predators can contact your child through public chat rooms, online messaging platforms, and gaming apps.
Grooming and inappropriate messaging is becoming more prevalent. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reported that 2021 was the worst year ever for online predators, as the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the amount of time spent indoors and online. It’s a horrifying thought that strangers could be contacting your child without your knowledge, and endangering them. And as always with the internet, once content is uploaded, it’s lurking out there for the world to see.
5) ???? Sexual Content
Although social media apps all have a minimum age requirement, it’s very easy to bypass this, and countless numbers of kids are using social media at increasingly younger ages – despite the content not being age-appropriate. Sex education through online media has become extremely common – but if a child is too young to be viewing it, it can disrupt their childhood innocence, and impact their attitudes, behavior and health. Social media increases the likelihood of a child being faced with pornography, and ‘sexting’ messages or images that they may be too young for.
The use of sexual content on the internet is also one of the drivers of cyberbullying and online predators – as well as affecting online privacy, and body image. These dangers are often intertwined with one another – and can have an all-consuming effect.
How do we go about preventing these dangers?
Being aware of the dangers of social media apps is the first step – but it isn’t enough. And taking social media options away from your kids isn’t the answer either – interacting with friends, taking part in online games, and the educational and social elements of social media platforms are considered by most users to be paramount in 2022.
Using a parental control app like FamilyKeeper can help your child navigate social media apps safely. Millions of users around the world are using FamilyKeeper to allow their kids, tweens and teens to use social media without any worries.
With FamilyKeeper, you can:
☑️ Monitor and block inappropriate apps and sites
☑️ Receive alerts if offensive or incendiary keywords are used
☑️ Set screen time limitations
☑️ Locate your child with the geo-location tracker, so you know that they are somewhere safe
☑️ Monitor saved images on your child’s device
☑️ Help your child with their Privacy Settings, so that they can’t be contacted by strangers
☑️ Track conversations and content across a range of social media platforms
For further information, or to download the app, visit Google Play Store.