I highly recommend watching it. The filmmaker’s interview top executives who used to work at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s an incredibly honest look at what social media is doing to us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
The documentary openly addresses how social media is affecting an entire generation of teens—the first generation to not know life before social media.
Social psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt cites evidence that the mental health of teens has greatly declined since the birth of social media. This goes for teen girls especially. Since 2010, there has been a 151% increase in depression and anxiety among girls aged 10-14. That year directly coincides with the rise of social media.
The documentary follows a fictional teenage girl as she navigates the world of social media. In one all-too-familiar scene, the girl posts a selfie of herself and is immediately bullied in the comments for her “big ears.”
The scene might be fictional, but the story is true of so many of our teenage kids. It’s so important that we don’t take these apps lightly. As they become more and more the center of kids’ social lives, we will have to be more and more diligent to make sure our kids’ mental health is staying intact.
At the end of “The Social Dilemma,” Dr. Haidt makes three excellent suggestions for how to reduce and monitor your child’s time on social media. As a pediatrician who’s seen countless teen patients with anxiety and depression, I confidently stand behind these suggestions.
1. No social media until high school.
And ideally, no social media until age 16. Dr. Haidt makes the point that middle school is hard enough. Why add social media into the mix? I completely agree.
I know this feels like an impossible feat for some of you. But weigh your options. You can either have a child who is angry with you for not letting him use social media as a preteen, or you can have a teenager who suffers from severe anxiety due to comparison, bullying, and a number of other threats these apps pose to our kids.
2. All devices out of the bedroom at a fixed time every night.
I’ve given this advice before. For one, the blue light from the screen can mess with your child’s sleep. But keeping phones out of rooms during sleeping hours will greatly reduce the amount of time your child spends online. Plus, you’ve heard it said, “Nothing good happens after midnight”? Well, this applies to social media too.
3. Work out a time budget with your kid.
I’m asked by parents again and again: How much is too much screen time for my child? I love Dr. Haidt’s suggestions here. He tells parents not to decide what the limit is for their child but rather, have your child decide.
Ask your child how much time she thinks is a good amount to spend online every day. Most likely, she will pick a reasonable number, and because she picked it, she will be far more likely to stick with it.
I suggest disabling internet access on your child’s smartphone too. Your child does not need internet access on their cellphone no matter what they may say to dissuade you, you know better. Smartphones should be entirely utility, not a source of entertainment for children.
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You are raising the first generation of kids who haven’t known life without social media. This is a new territory for us all, and I believe it is on us, parents, to ensure our kids know how to use these apps safely and in a healthy way. This is an area where you must parent out of strength and not fear. Put your foot down, set boundaries, and make sure your child knows you’re doing so for his long-term health. Trust me, when he is an adult, he will thank you.