The Unhealthy Reason Why Kids Crave Social Media

If your kids crave social media, you’re not alone…but that doesn’t make it healthy.

What is your kid’s heart longing for?

Right when they wake up and get ready for the day, there it is. As you drive them to school or practice, there it is. Throughout the school day, there it is. As you pick them up, there it is. As you come home, eat dinner and do your nightly routines, there it is again.

If this at all describes your child’s relationship with their phone, or more specifically their social media usage, please know you’re not alone. Kids crave social media. Why is this happening? To help answer this, here are a few things to consider:

We Crave Social Interaction

We are social beings who are wired to have social interaction. Biologically our brain wants this. In fact, blame this craving on your dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (try saying that three times fast), the part of your brain that makes us see the world through a social lens.

Think about it, the reason why we want to stay connected with our connections (friends, family, and peers) is that they play a vital role in our life, even to affecting the decisions we make throughout our day. Deep down, none of us want to experience loneliness, so we stay in touch with others. Hence why our kids crave social media; it helps them to experience social interaction with similarly minded people, avoid loneliness and stay connected with their realm of influence. It’s less about social media and more about social interaction.

“Young people use digital media as a resource to help them define themselves and develop the social connections vital in adolescence. Our assumption as digital immigrants is that screen time means being disengaged or antisocial, but when teens use social media, the opposite is often true.” – Right Click

The problem comes in when our kids become emotionally dependent on social media (because we’re also emotionally wired beings).

We Crave Acceptance

We all long to be accepted by our peers. In regards to social media, when we post something that interests us, we want to see the reactions and validations from others. We live in an instant gratification society and kids feel like they need to always update their world on what’s going on in their life so they can be accepted.

Children and teens need self-affirmation, and social media is one of their avenues of getting it. Kids put themselves “out there” by posting messages or pictures and depending on how many likes and comments they receive, that determines if they feel accepted or not. They also feel the need (craving) to like and comment on other peoples’ posts too because it is their way of affirming and accepting someone else. They think the more they like and comment on other people’s posts, the more others will do the same for them…I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

Who Am I?

Throughout adolescence, kids are trying to figure out the answer to one important question, “Who Am I?”  And whoever gives them praise will be the person/people they find their acceptance in. Same thing with social media; kids and teens will keep posting things as long as people “like” or comment on them…it’s a form of acceptance/approval.

Here’s the tricky part: because we crave acceptance, we’ll hide things in our lives that are not acceptable. This is another reason why kids and teens love social media:

  • They can manage what they allow people to see on their pages.
  • They can choose not to post certain things about their life that they don’t want others to see.
  • Tweak or filter an image to make them look better.
  • Follow people who are less attractive to make themselves look more attractive.

We want to show the best version of ourselves, sometimes with little consideration of the cost.

We Crave Escapes and Entertainment

“If we could experience digital media through our kids’ eyes, it would look a lot like a playground. What we see on our devices as new features and upgrades, our kids experience as new pieces of equipment on their playground.” – Right Click

Why do we crave particular vacation spots?

Why do we crave certain foods?

Why do we crave being around “our” people?

 

It’s simple; we crave what we like. I enjoy coming home from work and unwinding by watching a favorite show and catching up on my social media platforms. It’s sort of like an escape from the seriousness of my day. Social media can be this type of positive experience for many people, especially kids. Kids love to have fun and stay connected with what their friends are doing, that’s why they crave social media so much. It seems like the problem comes in when kids let social media become their priority and focus, even to the point where they feel like they may experience FOMO (fear of missing out) so, clear and appropriate boundaries help our kids healthily satisfy their cravings.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, why do kids crave social media? Simply put, it’s an easy and fun way to meet their needs for connection and acceptance. Social media makes you visible and lets you explore who you are and who you want to be. It helps you find your niche and see what other people think, be careful however, because social media usage can become unhealthy if you let it become your identity instead of your interest.

To find out more on how to use social media in a healthy way, check out our free e-book Does This Thing Come With a Manual? (4 Healthy Habits to begin with your social kid).

Caleb Farley
Caleb Farley is a husband, daddy of a strong-willed boy and girl, and co-founder of Be Socially Smart. He has a master's degree in Youth and Family Ministry and desires to come alongside parents in helping their kid be socially smart. You can also find him on Be Socially Smart's Facebook Page.

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