Anyone have any good videos for teen girls on the harms of social media?


I had a discussion with my daughter (8) today about social media. She has been very interested in having an online presence even though she knows I will not allow her to have a smartphone. I started to explain to her why social media is mostly not good for teenagers and she was receptive to hearing about it. But I didn’t have time to fully explain.

I wanted to find a YouTube video that breaks it down easy and quick. Something that explains why social media creates feelings of jealousy and low self-esteem in girls. And why it leads to depression and anxiety. Anyone have any favorites to share?


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I don’t have experience with this, but think you may be able to ‘train’ the youtube recommendation algorithm to give you some good suggestions. When first typing “Children Internet Safety Online” I only got stuff that’s made for adults to educate them. Couple of click-throughs on the recommendation bar gave me this video:

Not yet for the age category of your kid, maybe. But now the recommendations start to come more in the direction of stuff that kids might actually watch and like and understand. So, might try that…

There should be some stuff in the history of this forum, so a search might work. Though I don’t use Twitter (I switched to the Fediverse), there’s a whole bunch of kids-related cyber safety accounts, like: who post vids now and then, or who you might ping to ask for good resources.

Thanks. That video is more about privacy and security. I’m looking more for something about the psychological and lifestyle problems.

I found this but it may be a little too traumatic for her. Hoping to find something more informative

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Here’s another one about addiction in general (kind of abstract, but great)

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The first one is by Steve Cutts who has many more great animations. But they are never easy watching with the messages they convey. Like the second one, though it is a dark ending :smiley:

I haven’t logged in here for a while but I saw an update with your post and it’s poignant for me at the moment too so I had a look. I’ll share a few things in the way AJ did so that there are some tips for others too. (ignore the deletes, I made a mess editing)

I think you’re on the right track about wanting to teach her about the evils of the ‘attention economy’ but it’s actually really hard to find content aimed at her age group. It’s all mostly for teens or very young kids. I did find this one clip though which I think is a great summation of divided attention based on the same hard science I’ve recently learnt The Distracted Mind - YouTube

Keep in mind that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and this is an ongoing conversation not a bite size clip. Mental health concerns are much worse when kids don’t have the skills and tools of discernment. The bullying, and the effects of bullying, gets worse when kids don’t understand easily our emotions can be affected much more easily through media tricks (advertising is now on steroids). Self esteem issues are just the top of the iceberg and cyber safety is a fundamental skill to start off with in order to build understanding about psychological profiling, conditioning and and micro targeting which all preys on our self-esteem and other vulnerabilities - see Alexander Nix: From Mad Men to Math Men | OMR Festival 2017 - Hamburg, Germany | #OMR17 - YouTube

When it comes to resources for kids public broadcasters like the one here in Australia have a charter which means they have a social responsibility to do content like this program aimed at teens Social Media Me - Shows - ABC ME

This clip taught me the term ‘digital citizenship’ which makes sense and is useful to know. I did a search on YT for “digital citizenship for younger kids’ - I recommend you give that a try and look for things you think she might like.
They also have a Twitter feed for parents

I literally am studying psychology so that I can produce content teaching kids about the science of perception so I read a lot on the topic of disinfo and how to manage the social media engagement of kids and the advice which made the most sense to me, is that just like learning to cross the road, social media engagement is best done gradually and with guidance so every bit of time you can spend with her doing things that are fun and guiding her about the challenges as they come up is worth its weight in gold.

A lot if this stuff comes down to understanding how the technology works and realising it’s a tool that needs to be used safely because as much as it poses threats it also provides wonderful things like connection and learning. There is a concept called ‘fireside time’, it describes a wellbeing need for passive engagement that used to be met by staring into a fire or staring at the night sky. It’s a kind of mental defrag. Sometimes screen time fulfils this need expressed as ‘fireside time’. It may be helpful to know that because there is a lot of guilting that goes on when you’re a parent. Everyone thinks they know how you should do it and they are all wrong because they aren’t you and they don’t have the child you have.

I’ve seen friends set up an interest based account for their kids that is is anonymous. I thought it was really clever to turn the focus onto an interest from the beginning so that the camera is pointed at ideas not looks. This is particularly important for girls who are bombarded by the ‘look at me’ content rather than the ‘see what I can do’ content. So maybe it’s something to consider as a compromise with your daughter eg. if she loves animals maybe it’s about taking photos of animals, putting some interesting info on the photos and uploading them - you’d do this with her but under an account that you have the password to. In doing this with her she will learn the basics of what to think about in relation to social media - not just wanting to be on it because her friends are.

Also if playing games online with friends is the goal eg. Roblox, Minecraft or Toca Boca then make sure to check out parental controls carefully from the very start. Make sure she understand that it she doesn’t know someone in real life then their profile info could be all made up. It’s not dissimilar to the neighbourhood safety discussion and you can pretty much adapt real life neighbourhood safety with virtual, as they get older that they learn a bit about psychological conditioning to help protect them against recruitment (I have two friends whose teenage kids were recruited into extremism through online gaming, those companies really need to do better at moderating).

It’s also worth considering shifting the focus from social media per se onto learning about the neuroscience of perception but this is where there is a real lack of great content for this age group unfortunately. She would possibly enjoy the selective attention test

There’s also a great trick you can do with a piece of paper explained here How to Teach Perspective | Kid Lessons - YouTube although I’d suggest rather than just turning the piece of paper around you say “can you come and have a look at it from my side?” as the physicality of asking her to adjust her perspective to see what you see could work really well too.

It’s also really worth learning about Kahneman’s System 1 thinking vs System 2 thinking if you haven’t come across it yet as this distinction is at the heart of skills needed to deal with the attention economy.

If it’s TikTok she is after then I can only say that I do not envy parents of today. Really do your homework on tiktok. I wouldn’t let any kids near that. At least we are starting to see some standards on other platforms.

I’ll try and end on a positive. I’ve seen the best understanding of these issues from kids who are encouraged to investigate and who have been taught the valuable lesson of perspective and of cognitive tricks. Magic is a wonderful way to get this through to kids as an ongoing conversation so here’s something fun. The vocab and the stats is possibly over her head but the basic premise should still cut through Magic Isn't Magic: It's Psychology - YouTube

Good luck with it. I’d love to hear if any of this turned out to be useful and if I find more age appropriate content I’ll let you know.



I’d like to check out that “Social Media Me” show but I guess I have to sign up with ABC Australia to get it? The other stuff seemed more geared for adults.

I’m a lot more concerned with the mental health issues than the privacy ones for her, but I like your idea of creating anonymous interest-based profiles for her to stay focused on ideas and not social validation. That’s kind of like how I already use social media (heck, I’m doing it right now) and I consider it a healthier way. You also handle the privacy side at the same time, so it’s two birds with one stone.

I was looking around and found this guy:

Satire and ridicule are great at breaking spells cast by media (but you have to be very careful, because they cast their own spells, too). I don’t want to teach her that it’s okay to mock others mercilessly, but I do want her to realize the end result of social media is to turn you into a narcissistic dumbass.

If she was already wrapped into this stuff I wouldn’t dare approach it this way, but you never know what’s going to stick in someone’s mind.

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Awesome summary, thanks so much for sharing!!

If i could ask, could you elaborate on why tiktok in particular is so bad? You seem to know a lot about things and I’d love to hear in your words!

All platforms are moving towards more of what it does; short viral clips, microtrends, etc., so understanding the patterns and “what is bad” in the general sense will be valuable so we can spot it in other platforms and apps, and proactively build game plans and defences as necessary.

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TW: discussion of self-harm

TikTok has a record of poor content moderation. Content moderation is difficult enough but TikTok presents the most challenging context as content is footage rather than stills or text. Just as memes were and still are to a degree (more visual noise is required) a way to get around content moderation on fb; YouTube has a similar problem but does at least have an automatic transcript tool which would make that task easier. AFAIK this isn’t the case with TikTok.

There was a recording of a suicide which was then disseminated through the site by being tacked on to the end of content aimed at children. I have a few friends with children in the 8-12 bracket who saw this content. It was incredibly disturbing for them.

Thanks for your advice and guidance @Birdie .

I sub at a private religious middle school sometimes and a friend of mine there leads a class on modern day issues for teenagers. I sat in on his class last week and he was having an open discussion with them about the pros and cons of social media. What was really eye-opening is that when the discussion was about the harms of social media, the kids had no issue listing all the reasons why social media is bad and why it hurts you. They were experts in that topic and eager to share. But when he turned the discussion to the ways social media can benefit us or how to use it intelligently, it was like pulling teeth. They wanted to talk about anything besides that. They had never considered how to use social media in a positive way. And it was not easy for them to come up with ideas when asked. When asked to brainstorm how to create a successful channel (for example), they had no idea why a channel becomes successful. They attributed it 100% to luck. They saw the adoption of social media as a fact of life beyond their control. This is not the typical experience of using new technology - usually people who adopt new technology are the first ones to advocate and educate about it. Something to ponder.

EDIT: Previous comment deleted to remove key words that may have been attracting spam bots. Wow. Thanks for the follow up. That’s extremely interesting. It’s really got me thinking that it’s an area begging to be researched. Anecdotally it seems parents really do focus on the evils of screen time and I don’t know how much that is a response to expert advice. I can’t say I’ve looked at that research much. I do think passive watching is important. It’s my suspicion that it provides a vital mental reset in some way and that while we do get it from mediation and star gazing we also get some of it from passive watching of screens - something that seems to be frowned upon by a lot of people.

Our living circumstances also influence how we can engage in a passive mental state. We don’t all have safe open spaces we can easily access, or pollution free skies we can star gaze at. If your neighbours are rowdy and your windows look onto brick walls or something else unappealing then a tv or an internet screen can provide a valuable respite. I’m just mentioning that because what you’ve said has made me wonder if the advent of technology has diverted the experience of more common types of social behavioural guilt into all encompassing ‘screen guilt’ - by that I mean an activity most of us do and most of us enjoy yet we pretend isn’t the case because of beliefs that our human value comes from our virtuousness which means suppressing urges to do valuable things. Yet I’m surprised kids can’t find those good things to say and I wonder how much if that is about meeting the expectations they feel exist. … I’d love to ask those kids “if there were no adults here and you were having a chat amongst your peers what would you say you liked about tablets and mobile phones’… I believe their answers would provide insight into the sentiments behind their initial answers, particularly in a religious setting where there is an emphasis on rote learning, kids are likely to feel there is a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer.

Having said that I’m not great at motivation so I probably err towards self indulgence and that may be why I’m predisposed to see the positives… we all have our bias I guess.

Thanks so much for telling me about this activity though.

Oh and I should mention, I first started thinking about the dichotomy of screens when I heard that Montessori schools had added iPads to their classrooms. That fascinated me. They did it way before mainstream schools not as part of the curriculum but just as one of the tools we have to choose from - so just a handful if them in a class and kids could have a turn on the iPad or draw with pencils and, when given the choice, didn’t seem to default to the screens. There is a similar study I recall from the 70’s involving set meals with controlled access to treats vs kids allowed to graze from a range of foods that found kids who grazed ended up eating a more balanced diet and yet now I’m wondering how robust that study really was … there has been a lot of confirmation bias in behavioural science but a focus on cleaning that up means we are now starting to get much more compelling data. I’m so interested to see what the next decade brings us as far as neuroscience discoveries and confirmation.