A Social Media Marketer's Perspective on Protecting Our Children's Mental Health

Today, I stumbled upon a thought-provoking article in The New York Times that really struck a chord with me. It delves into the recent warning issued by the Surgeon General, shedding light on the potential harm social media can inflict on our children's mental well-being.  

As the owner of a social media marketing firm and a stepmother of two amazing kids, ages 8 and 10, this issue hits close to home. So, grab your coffee, find a cozy spot, and let's dive into this conversation.

The Dark Side of Social Media

First off, let's acknowledge that social media isn't all bad. It has its benefits and can be a powerful tool for connecting with others, finding communities, and expressing ourselves. But just like anything in life, there's a flip side to consider. The Surgeon General's report highlights the "profound risk of harm" that social media poses to the mental health and well-being of our children and adolescents. And honestly, it's something we can't ignore.

According to survey results from Pew Research, up to 95% of teens reported using at least one social media platform, with more than one-third stating they use social media "almost constantly." As social media use has risen, so have self-reports and clinical diagnoses among adolescents of anxiety and depression, along with emergency room visits for self-harm and suicidal ideation. These alarming statistics cannot be overlooked.

Taking Action: Our Role as Parents

As a parent, I understand how challenging it can be to navigate the digital landscape with our kids. Technology is evolving rapidly, and it fundamentally changes how our children perceive themselves and the world around them. It's a lot to keep up with, isn't it? But fear not, my friends. We're in this together, and we can take action to protect our children's well-being.

One of the recommendations from the report is to create a "family media plan" to establish clear expectations and boundaries for social media use. By setting limits and defining what is acceptable content, we can guide our children's online experiences and foster healthy habits.

Let's reclaim mealtimes and in-person gatherings as sacred moments, free from the distractions of devices. These moments are perfect for building social bonds, having meaningful conversations, and nurturing our relationships.

The Power Players: Tech Companies

But the responsibility doesn't solely lie with us parents. Tech companies need to step up and take action as well. The Surgeon General calls on these companies to enforce minimum age limits and create default settings for children that prioritize safety and privacy. We need age-appropriate health and safety standards for technology platforms to ensure our children's digital experiences are as secure as possible.

Navigating the Complexities

Now, I understand some of you may be taken aback by this alignment between a social media marketer and the Surgeon General's perspective. After all, the connection between social media usage and mental health is far from simple. But let's focus on what we know for sure: excessive screen time, including social media, can displace essential activities like sleep and exercise. These activities are crucial for our kids' developing brains and overall well-being.

Furthermore, social media platforms can be a breeding ground for harmful content, cyberbullying, and peer pressure. Our children, particularly those in early adolescence, are in a critical phase of brain development, and they're vulnerable to social pressures and comparisons. It's no wonder that anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation have increased among adolescents as social media usage has surged.

Embracing Change Together

As the owner of a social media marketing firm, I wholeheartedly understand the power and influence of these platforms. They have transformed the way we connect, share, and do business. However, it's time for us to reflect on the consequences and prioritize our children's mental health. 

By staying informed, having open conversations with our children, and setting clear boundaries, we can help our them thrive in a digital world. Social media isn't going anywhere, but with the right approach, we can harness its positive aspects while mitigating its potential risks. Let's be proactive in protecting our children's mental health and well-being.

With love and determination,

Eliza McElhaney
Founder of ESV Creative
Proud Step-Mom of Two Amazing Kids