Are Phones Social Media Bad For Children?

Media consumption by children and adolescents

With the rapid development of the Internet, media use has changed fundamentally in all age groups. Children and young people play online video games in their free time, get information and network via social media and communicate with their friends and relatives via mobile phones. But digital media are part of everyday life not only in leisure time, but also in school.

Opportunities and risks of digital media for children

Thanks to the spread of mobile, internet-enabled screen devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, digital media are available almost everywhere and at all times.

The digital media offer adolescents a wide range of development and learning opportunities. By actively participating in our media society, the children acquire the technical skills that are necessary today to cope with many everyday and professional situations.

Media literacy means using the media consciously and, above all, responsibly. This includes knowing how to meet your needs for information and entertainment with the media, but also questioning both the media and your own media consumption. Media literacy in the Internet age comprises the technical knowledge of how digital media are used. In addition, competent handling of digital media means: being careful with personal data on the Internet, checking information critically, observing general rules of conduct also on the Internet and regularly shielding yourself from digital distractions.

However, the use of digital media also harbors risks such as cyberbullying, data abuse or sexual assault.

The misuse of data is favored by two properties of the online environment: firstly, the alleged anonymity of users, which increases their willingness to reveal sensitive information and makes attacks easier, and secondly, the rapid distribution and reproduction opportunities that characterize the new media.

When does media consumption become problematic among adolescents?

There is a risk in the way children and young people use digital media. This allows them to consume content that is unsuitable for their age group or that endangers them (e.g. violence, pornography).

But the extent of consumption also plays a role: excessive online consumption threatens health side effects and in extreme cases a slide into addiction. Schoolchildren with above-average screen usage are more than twice as likely to have unhealthy eating habits than the others. They are more often overweight and not physically active enough (Swiss HBSC study 2014).

Symptoms of problematic media use include difficulty going offline and neglect of sleep, schoolwork, and family life. The motivation for consuming certain media content also plays a role. Multiplayer online role-playing games, social networks, gambling offers and porn websites in particular have a high potential for addiction - partly because of the quickly available, constant stimuli and the promised rewards.

The vast majority of young people in Switzerland have a healthy relationship with digital media. Around 7 percent of 15 to 19 year olds, however, have problematic Internet use (Suchtmonitoring Schweiz 2015).

This group is at increased risk of developing emotional and physical problems as a result of digital media consumption. Even if a young person shows signs of addictive behavior when using the media, this does not have to be an “online addiction”. Especially at a young age, phases of excessive behavior can also be an expression of normal development. You can find more information on problematic Internet use here.