On Tuesday, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory about the risks social media has on children, tweens, and teens. The report cited multiple research papers and calls on parents and kids to be aware of the risks.
“I thought it was a little late,” said Tatania Jordan, Chief Parenting Officer of Bark, a company
that makes kid-safe smartphones.
Jordan says it is a warning that should have come years ago, since most parents and mental health experts have been aware that social media is often linked with serious mental health issues. Jordan says for many families, taking action after a teenager has been using a smartphone for years is too late as well. But bringing attention to the problem should give parents of younger children a reason to be proactive.
“For those parents who have not yet given their kids access to social media, listen up: you do not have to give your child access just because all of their friends have it,” Jordan said.
Bark released its findings from an extensive review of over 4.5 billion messages shared by young users of Bark phones. Among the statistics it found are these:
● 88% of teenagers experienced violent subject matters.
● 66% of tweens engaged in conversations about alcohol and drugs.
● 64% of teenagers were involved in self-harm or suicidal situations
● 82% of teenagers and 62% of tweens encountered nudity or sexual content.
“You name it, kids are experiencing it, and it rates much higher than any one of us may imagine,” Jordan said.
But the Surgeon General’s report puts the onus, or responsibility, on parents and kids to avoid this type of content. The only way to do this, Jordan says, is to prevent access to the devices. Easier said than done when they and their friends already have access to Snapchat, Instagram, online video games, and other platforms.
“It’s okay to delay. I’ve never heard a parent say, ‘I should have given my child access to XYZ sooner.’ Not once. On the flip side, I’ve heard way too many parents say I wish I would have
waited. I wish I would have waited.”
Jordan, who is the mother of a 14-year-old, wants to remind parents of children and middle-schoolers that handing them a phone and approving a social media account should not be a given.
“Just because social media platforms state you must be 13 years of age or older to use it,
doesn’t mean that, at 13, go ahead and give your kids all the things. Some children still aren’t
ready at that age,” she said.
What can parents of young children do when their kids say, ‘But all my friends have a phone,
Snapchat, Instagram etc’? Some parents have found there is strength in numbers by banding
together to set community rules when it comes to devices and platforms.
See Bark’s full Annual Report
Surgeon General’s Advisory