- Being online and using social networks can offer many opportunities for children; to explore, learn, express themselves, develop their identity, build relationships and give and receive support from others.
- However, using social networks has also been linked with potential risks to well-being such as anxiety, depression, issues with sleep, issues around body image and identity, online bullying, and pressure to compare themselves with their friends or to behave in ways that may make a child feel worse rather than better.
- FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) is one aspect of social networks that can negatively impact on wellbeing. It is the worry that social events and enjoyable activities might take place without you there to enjoy them. This drives a need to be constantly connected with others online so as not to miss out.
- Social network use can also influence the way in which a child views themselves and compare themselves with others. This can sometimes lead to a child following or imitating popular trends to look good, or looking to acquire lots of friends or followers on the networks they use. For some children, receiving likes and comments can become a focus, and can affect what they do and share on social networks.
- A child’s use of the internet can be very different to an adult’s use – adults may not always see the appeal or value of some activities that children enjoy. This doesn’t necessarily make those activities risky, inappropriate or negative – it just makes them different.
- Encourage your child to always speak to you or a trusted adult if anything about the way they are using the internet is making them feel worse rather than better.
- Take time to talk regularly with your child about the things they see and experience online, and how they make them feel. Talking about the positive experiences as well as the less positive ones can help you and your child understand if their internet use is beneficial and might help identify things you can change.
- Keep an open mind when considering if your child’s use of the internet is healthy or unhealthy – they may enjoy using games or apps that you don’t understand, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the use of these is negative.