Nature Vs. Nurture: Your Child's Social Media Habits

Mental Health
By
Derek Jackson
Mar 25, 2022
5 min read

Have you ever wondered why some kids use social media and seem to have no issues with their mental health, while others experience extreme harm from it? 

In 2020, researchers published a study called Adolescents’ Intense and Problematic Social Media Use and Their Well-Being in 29 Countries.

The study focused on the behavior of more than 150,000 kids from 29 different countries with the goal to better understand the factors at play that could predict how social media might affect a child’s mental health.

It’s popular to think that screen time is the best way to avoid potential mental health concerns related to social media and the internet. However, this study suggests that this answer is too simple.

What did the researchers discover? Children aren't impacted by merely time. What they are doing, who they are around, and how their culture treats social media play a huge part, possibly even a bigger part.

Let’s break down some of the details involved in their research. First, they separated the distinction between intense usage and problematic usage. 

  • Intense social media usage simply means that the child uses social media “almost all of the time throughout the day.” 
  • Problematic usage involves indications of an addiction to social media usage, indications of lower life satisfaction, and kid’s believing that their issues are getting worse due to social media.

That means that both intense users and problematic users spend a ton of time on social media every day.

Next, they looked at the trends for the country and the child’s family. Results from some countries showed that using social media to contact friends and family, meet people, or just have fun was very common. Specifically, some children indicated that their family thought about or used social media almost constantly throughout the day. For other countries, this amount of usage was pretty rare.

Now for the grand finale! Or at least the point of all this.

  • Problematic usage always connects to lower well-being across all of the countries.
  • Intense usage connects to higher well-being in some countries and lower well-being in others. ← The environment is a huge factor here.

In countries where intense usage was common, the children that used social media a lot had higher feelings of family support, higher life satisfaction, and more friend support.

But, in countries where intense usage was uncommon, the opposite was true. The intense usage was connected with a child having lower life satisfaction, feeling less family support, and having more mental health-related issues

What if I think my child leans more toward problematic use?

Don't panic. You aren’t alone and there’s a lot of help out there. An easy place to start is our helpful hotlines and resources.

Nature versus nurture, that’s the age-old debate. And here it comes to light weighing social media and its effect on kids.

In my opinion, the research made it clear that while nature has an impact, nurture plays a very significant role

  • Consider thinking back to when you were a kid - how was new technology or the internet treated in your home?
  • How has it impacted the way you feel about your child using social media?
  • What about your family now? Is intense usage criticized or looked down on…maybe even unintentionally?

There is no one size fits all solution. But maybe some tweaks and adjustments could break through those barriers to the loving connection you want back. A conversation can start the process of you and your child finding what fits you.

The Conclusion

Be careful not to simply accept what the “healthy parenting industry” pushes about social media use. 

This study showed that social media usage can make some kids feel more social, happier, and more connected to their families. Blocking access or limiting screen time could actually have negative effects by preventing that.

I’ll say it again - start the conversation. Talk.

The next time your child asks for your phone, ask them how they would classify your usage or your family's.

Is it intense, or is it bordering on problematic?

What do they feel when they’re waiting to use your phone or when they have to give it back?

Help them understand what you worry about, explain something you learned from this study, and show them that you can take on some of the responsibility.

What we know is that parenting isn’t that easy. We don’t get to just make a decision, discipline, and suddenly everything is better. If we learn about how our own thoughts towards social media affect the likelihood of a problem occurring, then we have the tools to teach our kids.

Elizabeth Smart, Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
Georgann Yaya, AZCentral
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
Billy Harfosh, iHeartRadio
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
Desiree Briggs, Mama Army
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desiree Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
Dawn Van Camp, Mama Army
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Camp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
Phoenix Dream Center CEO Brian Steele
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
Larissa Marulli, Moms.com
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com
Elizabeth Smart, Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
Georgann Yaya, AZCentral
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
Billy Harfosh, iHeartRadio
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
Dawn Van Camp, Mama Army
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Camp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
Desiree Briggs, Mama Army
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desire Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
Phoenix Dream Center CEO Brian Steele
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
Larissa Marulli, Moms.com
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com

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