Social media is a great way to meet people but it may not be so good at teaching you how to treat them. In fact, around half of British parents polled by researchers at the University of Birmingham and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues think that social media is undermining their children’s moral development.
The researchers asked 1,700 parents with kids ages 11-17 about the impact of social media on their kids and found that 40% of respondents were either “concerned” or “extremely concerned” that social media had harmful effects on their children’s characters, while just 15% said they thought social media had a generally positive influence.
Asked which negative character qualities they believed were amplified by social media, 60% of British parents named anger and hostility, while 51% said arrogance, 43% ignorance, 41% bad judgment, 36% hatred and 30% vanity. Asked which positive character qualities they believed were least represented on social media, 24% named forgiveness, 24% self-control, 21% honesty, 20% fairness and 18% humility.
Earlier this year I wrote about a separate survey that found parents are concerned social media is contributing to stress in their teenage children. The WebMD Teens and Stress Consumer Survey of 579 parents of teens found that over half of respondents, 55%, rated their teens’ stress level as moderate or high, with teen girls in particular reporting high levels of stress resulting from their online social networks.
Meanwhile another survey of parents by Pew Research Center found that 60% of respondents with children ages 13-17 have checked their teens’ social media profiles to make sure they’re not doing something harmful to themselves or others.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media also contributes to anxiety in parents themselves. According to a study from Deakin University in Australia, mothers of young children who spend more time on social media are more likely to report feelings of anxiety than peers who spend less time on social media. The researchers polled 528 mothers of pre-school aged children, and found that their levels of self-reported anxiety rose with each additional hour they spent online, with women ages 25-44 twice as likely to report feelings of anxiety as men were in previous studies.