With the recent vote to ban TikTok in Montana, parents and educators seem to be examining the role of social media in their children’s lives.
And when it comes to social media and kids, experts say there are plenty of downsides.
That’s also the message of a high school teacher’s now-viral Facebook post, which has been shared 85,000 times.
“Imagine something embarrassing happened to you at school when you were in seventh grade,” reads the post, written by Jackie Tate of McEwen, Tennessee.
It goes on to detail how, in the generation of parents who read it, the incident would be forgotten within a few weeks.
But in the age of social media, your kids may never be able to put their worst moments behind them.
“Now imagine you did something embarrassing in seventh grade. And they all laughed and it was horrible. But someone also caught it on Snapchat. And turned it into a meme. And a Tik Tok. And everyone at school saw it. And took a screenshot of it. And spread it further. And you couldn’t escape him. And no one forgot. And neither could you. And people were still sharing it months later,” Tate wrote, followed by a heartbroken emoji.
“Just sit there and imagine it for a minute,” he added.
Dr. Joshua Stein, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Newport Healthcare’s PrarieCare Program in Minnesota, told Fox News Digital that Tate’s concern has merit.
“I have often seen a blunder, mistake or deeply negative decision go viral and subsequently land a young person in my clinic,” Stein said.
“The persistence of these events can rob a child of the opportunity to learn from mistakes, big or small, and can lead to a cycle of decline and shame. In the worst circumstances, it can lead to bullying, harassment, and eventually even school failure and deteriorating mental health.”
Commenters on the post pointed out that bullying before the internet doesn’t compare to bullying today.
“The experiences are not the same,” wrote one person.
“Oh my. I thought about one time when I was in 6th grade. Yeah. Bad. I can’t even imagine,” another user commented.
“It scares me like fire. So true!” one person said.
“It’s terrifying,” said another.
“My first and foremost concern is that it takes away the safety, comfort, and sanctuary of home. Before social media, once you were home, you were relatively safe.
The bullying, predatory adults, and bullying ended when a child got off the bus.
“Now, in the 24-hour cycle of existence, these attacks can escalate even when a parent can feel that their child is safe in their room.”
Still, Stein worries that an “all or nothing approach” to social media could lead to children hiding problems from their parents.
“It can do what social media used to be covert,” he said.
“When this happens, a child may avoid their parents when problems arise.
“Parents alone cannot correct this by simply trying to stop access.
“Social media companies must also be responsible that their platforms protect children.”
If there’s one good thing to be found on social media, Stein said it’s connection.
“Teens can keep in touch with old and new friends, find communities of shared interest, and support each other,” she said.
In addition to the dangers, Stein said, social media can also be “a profound waste of time. Short videos, posts, and feed patterns make it hard to put down. Instead of dedicating themselves to life, arts, sports, etc., children can waste the day in this unproductive way.
“They stagnate, instead of growing.”
Stein offered the top three tips for parents when it comes to their kids and social media:
Stein suggested talking about family values in relation to the use of social media.
“Define the dangers, the permanence risk of the internet, and how quickly things can get out of hand,” he said.
“Probe regularly by asking, for example, what they saw online today that was weird, uncomfortable, or scary.
“An easy way to start this conversation is to ask if any friends have had issues with online safety or bullying.”
2. Consider your age
“Impulsivity is appropriate for the age of a teenager. It leads to mistakes, some big and some small,” Stein said, adding her opinion that the age of 12 is too young for social media.
Stein said that parents should consider waiting until children are older before accessing social media platforms.
“Imagine if all your high school moments were recorded and your child could see all your mistakes and embarrassments. It’s disconcerting to say the least.”
3. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
Be sure to monitor all gaming devices and systems for security purposes.
“I encourage families to discuss that this is not a punishment, but rather a safety issue,” Stein said.
“This should be done weekly.
“Once security issues arise, access can be closed, not as a punishment, but as a security measure.”