Children in the United Kingdom are forced to deal with bouts of loneliness, low self-esteem and deep unhappiness because of Internet use, according to a report by the child counseling group ChildLine.
Of the total number of counseling sessions ChildLine conducted from 2014 to 2015, 35,244 of them involved children experiencing pressures from social media and cyber-bullying, worries that were considered to be non-existent among young people 30 years ago.
When ChildLine was launched in 1986, the biggest concerns of children at the time were family problems, pregnancy, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
However, the group noticed a significant change in the type of worries children had last year, which involved issues with unhappiness, low self-esteem and family relationships. These concerns were not recorded by counselors three decades ago.
Many children also dealt with bullying issues, including self-harm and cyber-bullying, which were also not featured in reports in 1986.
Additionally, ChildLine experienced a significant increase in the number of sessions they conduct every year. From the 23,530 sessions the group ran between 1986 and 1987, the figures swelled to about 286,812 sessions between 2014 and 2015.
"It is clear from the hundreds of thousands of calls ChildLine receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children," Peter Wanless, chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) which operates ChildLine, said.
"The pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online is adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis."
Wanless added that the concerns of children who contact the 24-hour helpline have changed dramatically since the service was launched. He said that ChildLine will also adopt changes of its own so that the group can continue to provide troubled youngsters with support whenever they need it.
"Times may change but one thing stays the same - our vital helpline is often the only place that many young people feel they can turn to," Wanless said.
Impact Of Social Media Use On Children
Social media is a relatively new invention, which is why it is still difficult to determine the exact impact its use has on children. However, there is growing evidence that using social networking sites such as Facebook can result in both risks and benefits to young people.
In a meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2011, Dr. Larry D. Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, presented the findings of his research that explored to potential adverse effects of Facebook use.
Rosen said that teenagers who use Facebook more often than others display a tendency to become narcissistic, while young adults who maintain a strong presence on the social media site display signs of psychological disorders, such as mania, aggressive tendencies and antisocial behaviors.
An overuse of technology and media on a daily basis also produces adverse effects on the health of all young people, making them more susceptible to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. It also causes these individuals to become more prone to other health problems later in life.
Rosen added that Facebook use can also serve as a distraction to children and teenagers, which could disrupt their learning. Earlier studies have shown that young people in middle school, high school and college who checked their Facebook accounts at least once during their study period achieved lower marks.
Despite these negative effects, Rosen said that Facebook use also produced a few positive effects on young people.
He pointed out that young adults who tend to spend more time using Facebook are more capable of expressing what Rosen calls "virtual empathy" to their friends online.
Social media websites can also help introverted adolescents learn how to interact with other people behind the safety of various device screens, from two-inch smartphones to 17-inch laptops.
Rosen said that social networking can also provide tools for teaching, which young students can effectively engage through different and compelling ways.
He recommended parents looking to monitor their child's social networking to engage in conversations with their child about the proper use of technology early and often in order to build trust as this can encourage the child to openly talk to them about issues that he or she may be going through, such as bullying.