The Bledsoe Firm - December 2019

The Bledsoe Firm JustFamilyLaw.com | 949.363.5551 DECEMBER | 2019

B reak the C hains of T oxic S ocial M edia And Open the Doors of Communication

Social media has become a burden for many people. It hangs over their heads like a dark cloud that never goes away. Even when they’re not on social media, the cloud is still there because someone is always posting something new. To keep up, people have developed an impulse to constantly check social media, and it’s an unhealthy habit. When it comes to kids and their developing minds, this can be a dangerous habit. As we’ve discussed over the last three months, social media and cellphones can have a detrimental effect on kids. They see constant examples of toxic perfectionism from Instagram influencers and celebrities who only post pictures from their latest ritzy vacation or to show off their new car. All their personal photos and updates say, “Look how beautiful and amazing I am.” Our kids don’t realize the perfection of the people they see on Instagram is manufactured, not real, and, because the “excitement” in their lives pales in comparison, it leads to feelings of inadequacy and depression. As social media activist Collin Kartchner has pointed out, it can even lead to self-harm and suicide. So many kids don’t know how to handle the pressures of social media, or they don’t know how to go about treating depression — and it just gets worse. Kids also use social media to bully other kids out of sight of parents and educators. Even parents who are very involved in their kids’ lives may not know the true scope of what their kids are doing on social media. Social media can be a vicious place. We cannot underestimate the importance of parents participating actively in their children’s lives. It’s not about being a helicopter parent or controlling

every aspect of their lives. It’s about knowing what they’re doing online and restricting their social media access — and setting healthy boundaries.

As we mentioned in the October edition of the newsletter, Collin helped develop Gabb Wireless (GabbWireless.com), a phone and plan designed to put

a healthy barrier between kids and the internet and social media. The phone cannot access social media at all. It goes back to basics: It only makes calls and texts.

Access to this phone is still very limited, but parents can do a few things to set healthy boundaries without this phone. First and foremost, most kids don’t need a smartphone. Nokia, for instance, still makes a relatively inexpensive basic call and text phone. For parents who want to keep in touch with their kids when they’re not at home, these “dumb phones” are a good option. Or skip the phone altogether. As parents, we get to pay the phone bills, so we make the decisions regarding phones and phone plans — and it’s important for kids to understand this. But more than that, even for kids who may have internet-connected devices, parents need to focus more on the dangers of the internet and social media. It’s easy to tiptoe around the issue, but parents and educators need to be blunt. Talk about the dangers of social media that can lead to depression and suicide. Talk about cyberbullying and the consequences of cyberbullying. These are not easy topics to talk about, but it’s necessary. On top of this, kids need to be reassured they can talk to their parents, guardians, or mentors about these issues — and know they will be listened to. Many victims of cyberbullying don’t talk to anyone about their pain because they don’t feel they have anyone to talk to. They might be embarrassed to talk about it or fear the repercussions. But you need to address all these issues. Kids need to feel safe talking about any and all issues related to social media.

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