One Friday night, my wife turned on Netflix and picked a documentary called The Social Dilemma. If you’ve ever seen it, it probably made you want to throw your phone away (or at least to put it away for an hour). The entire program is filled with alarming information and statistics. However, something that stood out to me is what has been happening to our daughters for the past 10 years.
The CDC’s studies of teen and tween girls have shown a dramatic increase in hospitalizations due to self-harm (up 62 percent for ages 15-19 and 189 percent for ages 10-14). Even more troubling are suicide rates, which are up 70 percent for ages 15-19 and 151 percent for ages 10-14. What is endangering our daughters? The rise and effects of social media. And we (dads and moms) are their only line of defense. We need to take action and protect them from this threat. Here are 5 ways social media is killing our daughters.
1. Fear of Missing Out
According to social scientist Jonathan Haidt, Generation Z is the first generation of children who were on social media in middle school. Seeing peers having fun when you aren’t included creates fear and worry. It’s easy to think there must be something wrong with you, especially at that age. Then there is the added fear of missing an important post or notification. Our daughters are caught in a vicious cycle—needing to be on social media all the time but then seeing pictures of others together.
2. Social Approval Addiction and PressureOur daughters post pictures looking for affirmation and approval. It’s a short-term thrill and it’s addicting.
Our daughters post pictures looking for affirmation and approval. It’s a short-term thrill and it’s addicting. They want that feeling as much as possible, so there’s pressure to create a look and a life that gives them the best public reaction. The way she naturally looks is no longer good enough. She needs to pose and use filters and apps to reach “perfection.” Eventually, the effects of social media impact how she views herself and her overall value.
3. Reduced Sleep
Staring at a screen, especially at night, makes it more difficult to sleep. This may seem small, but sleep has a major impact on her emotions and her ability to process. Lack of sleep may even cause depression. An expert on adolescence likened tween and teen girls to organisms with heightened sensors taking in tons of data about themselves. For teen and tween girls, it is difficult to process anything about their sense of self in a healthy way. When there is a lack of sleep, it’s impossible.
4. Family Disconnection
In a social experiment, Good Morning America had tween and teen girls shut down their social media accounts for two weeks. A bunch of those girls said they argued with their parents far less and connected more. When our daughters are glued to their phones, it causes disconnection and miscommunication. However, even more sinister, social media guides their thoughts and decisions more than you do.
5. Cyber Meanness or Bullying
Tween and teen girls can reach another level of meanness. Their hormones are off the charts, so something disappointing feels devastating and they lash out. Many times, they lash out at each other. Social media has only made it worse because it’s always there.
What to Do
Limit their social media. Having it in middle school is dangerous in my opinion. Yes, many of our daughters use it to keep in contact with their friends, but it is also killing them—many are literally dying. Enforce rules like no phones at meals, no phones in their rooms, and set time limits during the day and definitely at night.
Sound off: What are some other potential risks of social media?