The impact social media has on kids and teenagers is a growing conversation in Congress.
Just yesterday Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri testified before Congress to discuss the effects the app has on mental health.
Many, however, are concerned that the companies are not doing enough.
This all stems back to September when a Facebook whistleblower reported to the Wall Street Journal some of the company’s internal research regarding body image issues and mental health, especially for teenage girls.
According to the Pew Research Center,
“A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of Cyberbullying. 59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, and a similar share says it's a major problem for people their age.”
Since this report was published in 2018, the world has faced a global pandemic, drastically increasing the amount of time adults and kids spend time online.
Other research shows that social media directly affects mental health.
“There was a 70% in the amount of bullying and hate speech among teens and children during the first month of the Covid lock down alone,” according to DigitalTrends.com.
5News spoke with a cybersecurity expert based out of Washington D.C. about the effects of social media on children.
“And so, what we’re seeing more in children, I think, is that they are engaged more online and they’re spending more time online because of Covid and because of the circumstances that we are in the world. And so they are being more affected by what they are seeing, and they are having more engagement that is no longer real life,” said Leslie Kershaw, a cyber operations expert at the National Cybersecurity Center.
Kershaw believes big companies like Facebook and TikTok have the resources to help protect children online.
“They’ve already set a precedent for themselves in monitoring what’s being said about Covid, what was being said about the last election. And so, if they feel this moral obligation to step in those places, then I don’t see why this would be any different. They’ve already kind of decided for themselves that it’s their responsibility to step in when there are social concerns.”
Kershaw says the best advice she can offer parents is to google their children’s social media presence. She says if you’re a parent, make sure your kids’ accounts are in private mode. You should make your child aware of the dangers of social media. Never let your child share their location on apps or posts.
Kershaw says it’s up to each individual parent but monitoring your child’s screen time could also help improve your child's mental health.