How to address the perils of social media as parents

Is your child addicted to social media? Here’s what every parent should know.

YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp — the world of social media has been fast expanding and our children are having no problems keeping up. A 2016 study by DQ Institute and the Nanyang Technological University revealed the following:

  • 77 percent of 12-year-olds in Singapore are active on social media/chat apps, spending an average of six and a half hours on these daily
  • 55 percent of nine-year-olds actively use social media and chat apps, averaging a daily three and a half hours

These statistics should not be a surprise, as Singaporeans rank as some of the most active social media users in the world. While social media has become integral to our children’s lives, as parents, it’s important for us to know if our young ones are overusing social media and to understand the negative effects this can have, including:

1. Unhealthier lifestyles

Just like watching television, spending too much time on digital screens could lead to excessive snacking and weight gain. Not socialising and little to no physical activity can even contribute to depression in the long run, as it can affect the way we interact with others; in extreme cases, this can lead to self-harm.

2. Lack of sleep

It’s easy for children to lose track of time when they compulsively check the number of “likes” they have accumulated on their latest Instagram post, or surf different YouTube channels and reviews online, ignoring their bedtime. Sleeping less than the required time will inadvertently affect their health, causing muscle aches and even memory lapses, which may result in poorer performance in school.

3. Lack of interpersonal skills

Too often nowadays we see whole families sitting at restaurants with their heads down and eyes glued to their smartphone screens. Not only does a lack of communication mean that there could be breakdowns in relationships, it could also lead to poorly developed social skills stunting your children’s ability to function within society in the long run.

Practical tips for parents

As parents we can:

  • Keep the computer your child uses in a central location
    This will help you to monitor your child’s screen time and computer activities.
  • Get involved
    Be aware of what your children are doing online and become familiar with the social media platforms they use. Join these platforms as well — for example, become your child’s Facebook friend and follow them on Instagram. However, don’t embarrass them online for instance, by posting photos of them that they don’t like.
  • Have clear expectations and rules
    Sit down with your child and agree on acceptable online behaviour such as which sites they are allowed to visit or be a member of and the amount of time they can spend on social media daily — both on their computer and smartphones.
  • Lead by example
    As parents, it’s no use trying to tell our children to reduce their social media screen time while we constantly have our eyes glued to our mobile screens. Cultivate a family culture of face-to-face interaction; for example, you could institute a “no phones at the table” rule during mealtimes.

Protecting our children is part and parcel of being a parent. Here’s how to ensure they have an even more secure future.

The information in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of Prudential Assurance Company Singapore Pte. Ltd. Certain information in this article may be taken from external sources, which we consider reliable. We do not represent that this information is accurate or complete and should not be relied upon as such.

This article is for your information only and does not consider your specific investment objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend that you seek advice from a Prudential Singapore Financial Consultant before making a commitment to purchase a policy.