Just as those who want to drive must go through a training process with theoretical and practical classes, education is also important for those who intend to navigate through social networks. This is what the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends in a study newly released.
According to the APA, digital platforms are not essentially beneficial or harmful to youth. The effects depend on the personal and psychological characteristics of children and adolescents and the social circumstances involved in the uses made of them.
The training recommended by the association is “media literacy”, term which can be translated as literacy or media education. It is a set of skills to critically and responsibly analyze, evaluate and create media content. Such knowledge becomes urgent when we consider that children and adolescents need to know how to identify inaccurate content, deal with misinformation and nurture healthy relationships when using digital platforms.
In an increasingly connected world, teenagers also need to be able to communicate safely, recognize prejudiced messages, question the representativeness content and identify signs of irresponsible use of social networks. These skills explored by media education can and should be developed in the school environment.
In other words, influence will be a result of what they are prepared to produce and consume online, their pre-existing strengths or vulnerabilities, the contexts in which they grew up and the family environment. Ideally, the mediation between screens, children and adolescents should be done considering the maturity level and development of each age group.
It is important to emphasize that the interactions that children and adolescents carry out on the internet can be positive for mental health. Although bullying and harassment are also present in these environments, it is on platforms that many find support groups, discussion and socialization. When reliable and verified information is disseminated, the benefits are numerous, regardless of age.
And it is especially at the beginning of adolescence that the relationship between young people and social networks requires more attention. During this period, according to studies on which the American Psychological Association is based, the regions of the brain associated with the desire for attention, opinion and reinforcement from colleagues become increasingly sensitive. The monitoring of families and the establishment of appropriate limits for development are essential during this period.
In critical cases, the ideal is to seek professional support. Children and young people who are in emotional distress can find support in the Unified Health System (SUS). Another alternative are universities, study centers and voluntary projects that usually offer service at reduced prices.
Given these guidelines, it is important that family talk about the subject with children and adolescents and analyze: do I know what he or she accesses daily? Who are you talking to? Are there any limits on usage time? Have I sought information or training to address the issue? These are some of the questions that responsible persons must ask themselves attentively and continuously.
Let the phrase of the American psychologist Lisa Damour, in a recent statement to a CBS TV program, serve as a reflection: “social networks by themselves are neither good nor bad. The problematic and excessive use is what involves children in a toxic online environment”.