Social media addiction and its impact on Children
In this age of digitization, mobile phones have become akin to cherished family members. The use of social media has seamlessly integrated itself into the lives of many, especially the youngest generation. As we find more and more children captivated by the allure of social media platforms, we see an alarming trend emerge. While these mediums give the children a fleeting moment of satisfaction and a feeling of connection, they also hinder their development and well-being.
A suit filed in the California federal court stated that “Social media platforms like Meta have misled its audience about the substantial dangers of the platforms to maximize financial gains.” Adding to this lawsuit, these social media platforms have also been accused of “designing features like reels and short videos to keep children on their platform for an extended period of time.” This creating addiction in the children to the platform and contributes to the youth mental health crisis.” 33 US states have filed this lawsuit against Meta.
Social Media and Mental Health
We might have embraced the benefits of the internet but the true extent of its harm to children is a critical question. The acceleration of social media usage has turned into an addiction, and it has become a critical concern and matter of worry for society. With an emphasis on the pressing concern of social media usage, NDTV India held an enthralling discussion with Psychologist and Mental Health Activist Dr. Arvind Otta on the harmful aspects of social media addiction.
In India, the demographic of people who use Facebook and Instagram is quite large. Most of the users of these platforms are in India itself. Studies have revealed shocking data on how strong the social media influence is, especially on children. 62% of children between the ages of 9-13 years and 49% of the children between the ages of 13-17 years spent at least 3 hours of the day on social media.
In a stimulating conversation between the host Naghma Sahar and Dr Arvind Otta, the topic for discussion was growing concern about children’s tendency to refuse to engage with the outside world and real-life interaction with the increase in social media addiction. It raises the question of how this creates a profound negative impact on their well-being and development.
Why is social media so addictive?
Dr Otta emphasised how the short video format of content are addictive and have almost the same effect as how all other addiction works. He explained that dopamine plays a very significant role in almost all kinds of addiction including Social Media/Reel Addiction., Dopamine is a chemical substance associated with pleasure. When children watch reels or engage in these short formatted videos that are meant for entertainment and engagement, dopamine is released for an extended period, so they feel pleasure continuously but it’s devastating for children as well as adults too.
Also Read: The Growing Need for Mental Health Services
This induces a sense of satisfaction and draws the youth to engage on these social media platforms for an extended period in an attempt to replicate these pleasurable feelings that were induced through the release of dopamine. Dr Arvind Otta also stated that social media, particularly through features like reels, offers a wide array of content spanning various genres like: first video having comic sense then suddenly a second video will appear sad on screen and the third aggressive and so on. All these sudden switch of the videos influence different areas in the brain and this quick shift from one area to another is also negative in different manners. This diverse content landscape has a significant impact on the youth, influencing their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.
Arvind Otta mentioned that excessive release of dopamine, stemming from extended engagement with social media and platforms, can have a host of detrimental effects on the youth. Continuous surge of dopamine can lead to heightened anxiety, increased frustration, and even irritation. On a broader scale, he mentioned that it can be a factor that contributes to psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, chronic stress as well as suicidal tendencies.
Also Read: Reel Addiction and ways to deal with it
Digital Literacy is essential for children according to Aprajita Bharti. She mentioned that The education system and the guidance given by my parents need to emphasise how children using social media need to be digitally literate and the importance of being safe online. Advocate Virah Gupta emphasised that just like how addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco have age restrictions, social media, which is also addictive for children should also have some kind of restrictions. For example, in the US, The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act establishes 13 as the minimum age to use social media.
Also Read: The Psychology of Child Prodigies and Genius
How to deal with Social Media Addiction?
Dr Arvind Otta also pointed out a few ways in which social media addiction as an issue can be targeted and prevented. He mentioned that If anyone has any problem due to social media; first of all they have to accept that there are problems in life due to social media. Acceptance will lead to individuals proactively taking steps to solve the issue. After accepting the problem they can follow few steps:
- Keep the phone away at a distance of at least 15 feet when not using the phone or charging it. Make a designated space for your phone where you keep it just like how you would place your key at an assigned spot after returning home. This will reduce the accessibility of your phone and allow you to utilise that time for some other productive work.
- Turn off all the notifications from your social media applications. When these prompts are disabled you will be less inclined to open these applications and engage on social media.
- As you actively try to reduce your social media usage, you must appreciate the efforts you are making. Acknowledge and reward yourself whenever you succeed in reducing your social media usage. This will be a positive reinforcement for yourself and motivate you further.
- Spending time away from your mobile devices and physical activity becomes an integral step. When children with their families go out for activities, it is integral that they (Parents and Children) leave their devices at home. They need to enjoy the moment and engage with the real world without any digital presence.
Summing up this invigorating discussion, Dr Arvind Otta emphasized how the compulsive use of social media can lead to an addiction. The content consumed on such sites can cause an alarming adverse effect including depression and as well as suicidal tendencies. Therefore it becomes important for us to understand the pressing need to spread digital media literacy, and awareness about how social media is hurting people, especially children. Measures should be taken to limit these effects and one should also monitor the content being displayed on social media.