Cyber bullying is well documented, and I think parents are generally on high alert. However, I’m getting increasingly worried about other negative ramifications of social media for children. Sadfishing is another issue in a long line.
This is a social media trend where people make exaggerated claims about their emotional state/problems in order to get sympathy. I find this worrying from a number of angles.
My primary concern is that children who actually are feeling low or are suffering from specific mental health problems could be afraid to communicate this for fear of being accused of sadfishing.
Another fear is for those who indiscriminately post about and exaggerate their emotional problems. They might get a temporary, superficial boost from a high volume of engagement/comments but they’ll be crushed if responses then dwindle. It’s a catalyst for insecurities… “Does nobody care about me anymore?” There could also be the ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect should they ever have real problems they want to flag. Oversharing and exaggerating can also mask the issues that make children genuinely unhappy.
The trend of sadfishing could also discourage children from seeking proper help and advice for anything that’s worrying them.
I think one of the major problems with social media is it distorts reality. You all too often see the edited, picture-perfect ‘best’ version of someone’s life. You seldom see the banal, day-to-day stuff on a person’s social media channels. Children often don’t appreciate this filtering (even if they do it themselves). I’m sure it must lead to feelings of inferiority and the belief that their life isn’t as ‘good’ or ‘exciting’ as someone else’s.
Obviously sadfishing is the exact opposite. However, it’s still a distortion of reality and is another thing that makes it difficult to distinguish between facts and half-truths.
Constant connectivity can actually be exhausting
I speak from experience here. I’m a member of a lot of WhatsApp groups; some related to school (three separate classes), some friends and family ones and some for outside interests. They’re all really valuable in different ways, but sometimes it does feel like a barrage when your phone is pinging constantly. Coupled with texts, other messenger services and push alerts from social media platforms and websites it can be all-consuming, and a time drain. It also affects my productivity and ability to focus. I need to alter my habits so I can lead by example and ensure my kids don’t get swallowed up by social media.
Social media apps and sites are playing a significant part in breeding a culture where we expect everything instantly. I’m guilty of it too and I’ve witnessed it with my children. I do try to go against the tide and actually make the kids wait for things so we don’t lose the element of suspense, build up and excitement.
And don’t get me started on TikTok…
You can find out more on promoting safe and responsible use of technology on the Digital Awareness UK website.
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