Are you scared of what social media could do to your child? Here's why you need to watch Netflix's The Social Dilemma
How many times have you found yourself mindlessly scrolling your Instagram feed, not realising that more than an hour has passed and you still haven’t ticked off everything on your to-do list? If that’s you 24/7, then chances are, you’re addicted to social media. For us adults, it’s a scary thought. But for our impressionable kids and teens? The scariness is on a whole other level. This is why Netflix’s The Social Dilemma is worth watching for parents.
Why parents need to watch The Social Dilemma
Although there’s nothing groundbreaking around the Netflix doco’s message — yes, social media is dangerous, yes it affects lives — it reinforces the idea that we have to be more discerning about our social media usage. And for us parents with Gen Z kids who are growing up with social media? Knowing that it could affect their mental health is worrying.
Social media’s effects on mental health
Perhaps one of the most disturbing connections made on The Social Dilemma is the one between suicide and social media. On the news, we hear stories such as Madalyn Davis’s, a 21 year-old woman who died falling from a cliff in Australia. According to her parents, she was also the subject of abuse, resentment and manipulation on social media. Or the case of Molly Russell, who joined a club about depression on social media, which eventually led to her suicide. As parents who will do anything to protect our kids, exposing them to social media makes us feel powerless, adding to our ever growing list of worries and fears…
What The Social Dilemma tells us
Through a very interesting cast of whistleblowers (aka former employees of social networking sites), we learn that popular social media platforms are now built to watch and track everything we do. Using updated algorithms, these new versions of the platforms are specifically based on formulas that not only highlight what’s popular, but also remembers and tracks the content you like.
And once you like or engage with something, your feeds will be populated with similar content. Which means, if our kids search for WAP dance tutorials, how to get abs or cat memes, that’s all they’ll see — plus anything else remotely relevant to those topics. Unfortunately, same thing goes for topics like how to commit suicide, or how to shoot a gun.
The worst part? After a while, social media starts to manipulate what you like. It tells you what to check out, on purpose, because it’s how all these platforms make money. They sell YOUR DATA to the highest bidders. No kidding.
When consumers become users
In The Social Dilemma, we watch a family’s life unfold, showing how social media has affected their lives. Although it is highly exaggerated — two kids get arrested at a protest and another forcefully breaks open a jar to get her phone — we see how social media platforms can feed addiction. Instead of consumers, we become users. We want to keep on scrolling, liking, watching. All the while, the algorithms are working in the background to create even more content that we can’t wait to consume.
So what do we do now?
While it’s probably impossible to delete all of our social media accounts or ask our kids to delete theirs (because trust us, they’ll find a way around it), it’s best to reexamine our family’s relationship with social media. In the documentary, some of the execs talk about how none of them let their kids access social media. But if that’s simply too difficult, watching this movie is a good start. Gaining awareness of the dangers that are lurking on the interweb — and most importantly, talking to our kids about them — will help us take control over our social media usage.
Being social media savvy
In the film, one of the experts suggests limiting your usage of social media. We can start by turning off notifications, adding time limits to our social media apps and being more involved in our kids’ consumption of social media. Sure, we can’t all expect to be added to our kid’s social networks, but we can ask them open questions about what they’re doing.
Obviously, there is something very wrong with the current social media situation. Thanks to The Social Dilemma, our eyes are finally open. Next thing on our to-do list? To become more social media savvy and more thoughtful about our usage — for ALL our sakes.
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