Study reveals parents’ top concerns about social media

Social media platforms have a dramatic influence on many young people and poses unique challenges for parents.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago recently surveyed nearly 3,000 current or recent parents of teenagers to better understand their most pressing concerns and challenges with social media, as well as trends in behavior exhibited by their children.

Social media use is obviously a controversial topic for parents that depends on how children use the platform. Social media can allow children to connect with their friends and share cherished memories but it also has the potential to cause damage to young child’s social and psychological well-being. As it turns out parents are concerned about the impact of social media use on their children. The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago survey found that 58% of parents believe that social media use has a net negative effect on their teens. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the survey results to find out more.

How does social media affect your teen?

The survey looked at the impact of social media use split into two different categories. The first category is what social media takes away from teens. The second category is the various things that social media exposes teens too.

Listed below are the top concerns parents have about social media use for their children:
  1. Not sleeping enough (58%)
  2. Not enough physical activity (57%)
  3. Not enough focus on schoolwork (52%)
  4. An unhealthy need for approval or attention (51%)
  5. Not enough face-to-face interaction (49%)
  6. Becoming sexualized too soon (45%)
  7. Not enough personal privacy; oversharing (44%)
  8. Exposed to sexual predators (41%)
  9. Exposed to hate speech (41%)
  10. Inhibits the child’s ability to focus (37%)
  11. Being bullied virtually (35%)
  12. Inhibits healthy brain development (29%)
  13. Bullying others (18%)
  14. None of the above (5%)

Social media use during COVID-19

The next part of the analysis asked parents whether or not their teens were using social media more or less during COVID-19 and what they thought about their increased or decreased use of social media. 63% of parents report their teens use of social media has increased during the pandemic, 25% said they are using it less and 12% reported using it about the same. Even though social media use has largely increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, more parents (45%) are appreciative of social media during this crisis than those who are increasingly concerned about it (39%).

Which social media platforms concern parents the most?

The survey asked parents about specific social media platforms to learn more about which social media platforms they are most concerned about their children using. As you might expect, the most popular social media platforms generally topped the list.

The full breakdown can be seen below:
  1. Instagram (48%)
  2. Snapchat (45%)
  3. TikTok (40%)
  4. Facebook (39%)
  5. YouTube (15%)
  6. Twitter (11%)
  7. WhatsApp (11%)
  8. Kik (9%)
  9. 4chan (8%)
  10. Discord (7%)
  11. Omegle (4%)
  12. Houseparty (4%)
  13. Tumble (4%)
  14. Twitch (3%)

The social and psychological impacts of social media use for teens

Some of the more interesting statistics from the entire survey relate to how social media use can impact teens. The survey found that 68% of parents believe social media affects their teen’s ability to socialize normally and 67% have felt concerned their teen is addicted to social media. Parents also believe that most teens have a desire that is not healthy for increased attention and approval because of social media. While there are many negative impacts of social media use, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago believes more research needs to be done to find out how social media can have positive outcomes in teens lives.

Social media the lack of privacy

The next part of the survey asked about how parents feel about how their children behave and portray themselves on their social media profiles. Over 50% of parents that were surveyed said they were generally uncomfortable about how their teen acts on social media. Many parents feel their children share too much of their personal lives with the world.

The survey specifically asked why parents were uncomfortable with their children’s behavior online. Listed below are the top five responses:
  1. They were being too open, lacking privacy (35%)
  2. They were being too sexual (20%)
  3. They were being insensitive (18%)
  4. They were being aggressive with other children (16%)
  5. They were being reckless (11%)
The survey also looked at some demographic behaviors in this section as well. They found that girls were twice as likely to act too sexual on social media where boys were twice as likely to be overly aggressive on social.

How parents are setting rules on social media use

Many parents are forced to set rules and guidelines regarding social media use so that their children limit their time spent on social media and what they post. The survey found that over 80% of parents reported setting rules around social media and phone use and that most parents were successful in enforcing those rules. 43% of parents went as far as using an app to monitor or restrict device and internet use to curb their child’s social media use. In those instances, 68% of parents said the app worked as expected.

What rules are parents enforcing?

So, what types of rules are being enforced by parents? Listed below are the top rules parents say they enforce on their children’s social media use:
  1. Limiting how much the phone can be used (31%)
  2. Limit when the phone can be used (23%)
  3. Limit where the phone can be used (11%)
  4. All of the above (35%)
On top of these rules, some parents are even going as far to censor their children’s posts all together if the parent deems to be not appropriate to share.

The full report on social media parenting statistics from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago can be seen here.

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