These days, it seems like everyone has their own social media account, from your kids to your parents. But there’s a certain group of people that really shouldn’t be on social media: Middle schoolers.
Most 13-or-so-year-olds do have their own Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. But one nurse recently shared her two cents about why she doesn’t think this is the best idea for kids in middle school.
“Tweens’ brains are simply too immature to use social media appropriately,” said Melanie Hempe, RN, founder of Families Managing Media. “Because the midbrain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low, I can’t imagine a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than middle school.”
For one, social media is really distracting, even for us adults. But because their frontal cortex hasn’t developed fully yet, people of middle school age aren’t actually physically able to manage that kind of distraction—and the addiction! “Like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits,” Hempe says.
But what if the middle schooler says that they want to use it for educational purposes? Hempe shakes her head to that notion as well. “Social media is an entertainment technology. It does not make your child smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job; nor is it necessary for healthy social development,” she says.
Social media can also put a weird emphasis on “friends.” They might see that their friend has 1,231 friends to their 1,230, and get in a bad mindset making them want to “overdo their friend connections,” as Hempe puts it.
Additionally, this can even go so far as to make teens prefer their friends over their family, and go to them when they need help instead of their parents or guardians.
“While one can argue that there are certain benefits of social media for teens, the costs are very high during the teen years when their brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things,” Hempe concludes. “It is easy for teens to waste too much of their time and too much of their brain in a digital world. We know from many studies that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all.”
Instead of handing over your middle schooler a smart phone, Hempe suggests spending more time together, without technology. Tweens need to be able to put social media away and feel like they can spend real time with the people who matter most.
She also suggests helping them choose a better form of entertainment, like planning get-togethers with friends (like 4-6 close friends, not 1,230). Schedule a movie night, a bowling outing, or an ice cream social, and they’ll forget all about who retweeted a funny cat meme.
“Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, they will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better,” she says.
What do you think of limiting tweens’ social media use? Do you agree that it only has negative effects for them?