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Don’t Be an April Fool: The Impact of Social Media Use On The Youth

It’s that time of year, April Fools’ jokes will be prevalent. Some may be harmless while others on social media may have dire consequences. One of the things we talk about all the time with our clients is the effect that social media has on a case.  We have all told or heard horror stories about damaging Facebook posts being entered into evidence.  However, increasingly we are talking about the impact of social media on children in these cases.

Social Media Use
Is Prevalent Among Youth

Internet access and social media use are ubiquitous.  It is estimated worldwide that internet users will spend on average over 145 minutes per day on social media platforms.  Seventy-five percent of teenagers have smartphones.  If you have a teenager like I do you wonder if all they do is scroll and post on social media all day and if they can speak actual words or only acronyms for things you have no idea what they are talking about.  I cringe every time I hear my son say Ima — meaning I am going to.

Social media is prevalent amongst adults. However, the real consumers of social media are pre-teens and teenagers.  Children as young as seven years old make up a large percentage of social media consumers. If you are familiar with social media apps you will know that most require users to be at least 13.  Children will find workarounds to that requirement, often with parental help.  It should come as no surprise then that half of children ages 10 to 12 use smart devices to engage on social media apps, with one-third of children aged 7 to 9 doing the same.

Social Media’s Harmful Impacts On Children

Some of these apps may appear harmless at first.  They just want to post fun dances with their friends.  TikTok for example has over one billion users and girls aged 12 to 19 are its largest demographic.  However, this does not prevent them from seeing all the unfiltered images and increasingly stupid challenges. #DIY-FANGS where kids superglue vampire fangs in their mouth, or #BlackoutChallenge, choking oneself till you blackout, and others that encourage licking public toilets or eating a container of frozen honey.

The point is that children are constantly barraged by images that imprint on their brains. Images they should not see, images they use to judge themselves by, and yes images they use to judge others by.  TikTok is not alone, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and the next newest app will take social media to the next level of uncharted territory and stupidity amongst teens.

Bullying in the schoolyard is not the same as it was.  Cyberbullying which is much more easily hidden is a new form of bullying, even more, harmful in that it can be captured and shared over and over.  Children do not have the ability to filter and as a result are exposed to not only cyberbullying but stalking, online predators, sharing personal information, and the next risky viral trend.

One of the greatest risks of early unmonitored social media use to children is the impact on their self-esteem, especially young girls.  There is a reason the tech titans do not allow their kids on social media. Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his kids use an iPad.  If it is bad for their kids, I can assure you they know it is bad for your kids too.

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Reverberations In
Family Court

We have already seen the impact of these types of things on children in family court. Children are threatening to kill themselves, judges are ordering therapy, and professionals are ordering medications at increasingly earlier ages.  Having said that, I have yet to see a parenting plan that includes limiting access to social media written into a final custody order or divorce decree.  It is in the child’s best interests that regardless of how difficult, parents should try to provide a consistent message across households, that social media is not for kids, and limit access to the internet.  I can see a time very soon when a custody battle turns on that very issue of who freely allows access to social media and the internet and which parent does not.

If you do find yourself in a custody battle, don’t be fooled by social media, heed this advice, and give us a call.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced law attorneys takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us help you make a positive change in your life.

By Marie McGrath, Esq.

Posted March 31, 2022

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