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The latest social media trends can be difficult for even millennials to keep up with. Nowadays, children are growing up as “digital natives,” surrounded by technology, meaning they are predominantly communicating online more and more.
Parents have a responsibility to stop their children spending too much time on social media, according to the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield. In an interview with the Observer, she said children are “in danger of seeing social media like sweeties, and their online time like junk food.”
“None of us as parents would want our children to eat junk food all the time,” Longfield said. “For those same reasons we shouldn’t want our children to do the same with their online time.”
She added that as a result, parents should “step up” and be proactive in stopping their children from spending too much time on the internet during their summer holidays, while social media companies tempt them to spend more time staring at smartphones and tablets. For example, she criticised the way Snapchat has a “snapstreak” feature, which you lose your streak if you do not continue using the app.
“You find children saying to parents that they have 30 people that they have to do every day and if they don’t, they drop the streak, and everyone will see,” Longfield said. “And then – does that mean they don’t like me any more? It’s almost like chain letters. There are children who say they can’t not be online, and I think that’s really worrying.”
Longfield said the concern is that children are consuming time online, instead of focusing on developing their personal skills and building real relationships. She added that internet time should be balanced, in a similar way to a healthy diet.
“When phones, social media and games make us feel worried, stressed and out of control, it means we haven’t got the balance right,” said Longfield. “With your diet, you know that, because you don’t feel that good. It’s the same with social media.”
Numerous studies have shown the negative impact social media can have on young people. For example, earlier this year a survey of almost 1,500 14 to 24 year-olds found it could deepen feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.