I personally left social media about 5 years ago now because of the very negative effect it was having on my already severely damaged mental health. I have spoken to many people about this over the years, and they generally agree that even taking a break from it can help improve how they feel.
A story in the media at the moment about a young 14-year-old girl called Molly Russell has really got to me and helped me decide to write this post. The internet is filled with all kinds of content that you would not want to expose a child to and not all of it is covered by filters in a way that you might want it to be. Sexual predators are unfortunately not the only danger children face on the internet. This is just another of the pitfalls that parents, guardians and anybody with a duty of care over children need to be aware of.
As of writing, execs from Pinterest and Meta (Meta being the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) have spoken at the inquest with the Pinterest spokesperson admitting that at the time the platform was "not safe" when Molly used it, with them having "deep regrets" about the posts she had viewed. It was good to see regret being displayed and an acceptance that there had been a problem that they had worked to resolve.
Meta on the other hand sent a spokesperson who was the head of their health & wellbeing (read the story here with full quotes), who spent most of their time saying that the platforms were "safe for people to be able to express themselves" the spokesperson spent the two days excusing the platform and stating that people should be able to express themselves, the court had been shown a very small selection of the posts which had been viewed by Molly, eventually the spokesperson admitted that 2 of those shown would have violated Instagrams policies and apologised that Molly viewed those. I should point out that in the 6-months leading up to her death Molly interacted on 16,300 posts of which 2,100 were depression, self-harm or suicide-related, but it's ok Meta apologised for 2 of those that could even be shown at the inquest.
I think I have a couple of points here, firstly social media needs to do far more to protect the children who use their platforms by using technology which is readily available to do so! Secondly, you as parents or people with a duty of care over children should not rely solely on social media platforms to protect them as this clearly shows there is a way to go before that happens.
Over the years I have read many sad news stories about the effects that content on the internet and social media has had on the minds of not just children but people of all ages, it may shock people to know that there are groups, forums and websites out there which have communities of people offering advice and encouragement to people who have suicidal tendencies or are struggling with their mental health. It infuriates me that in this day and age such communities are allowed to exist, it just proves to me that the internet is truly still the wild west, with people doing what they please and ruining as many lives as they possibly can.
My advice? from a personal perspective, my advice would be to delete the internet and start again. Unfortunately, I know just how impossible this is! The internet has been such a great technological benefit to us as we develop on this planet and has allowed many amazing things to become possible, the problem is that it has also allowed evil to be spread to all areas of the planet and given evil people a tool which allows them to affect many more lives than they could in the past. There are people who take great joy in causing pain to other humans, both physical and mental. Some people call them trolls, I just call them evil.
This is why I spend so much time trying to educate on subjects surrounding online safety, if you want to protect children online then it really does start at home and with that thing I keep mentioning throughout my posts, communication and building trust so that you know your child feels like they can come and speak to you. After the communication is in place though there are technical solutions that can help you to filter out much of this content, none of which are 100% guaranteed.
I will continue to post as much advice and help as I can going forward but if there are ever any areas you think I need to cover or if you have questions then please do reach out to me and I am more than happy to chat.
Be safe all and remember to be vigilant.