Educating the young on safe practices

Social media use, like road safety awareness, requires early and regular instruction

Social media use in teenagers is linked to anxiety, poor sleep and an unhealthy diet.
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Adolescence – and childhood in general – is a critical period of brain development that shapes lifelong adult characteristics. During this period, a person’s ability to perceive and judge risk effectively may be limited, and this may lead to reckless behaviour. This is why it’s important for parents and teachers to be there in their lives and guide their decisions.

An example is the increasing rate of social media addiction among young people. As The National reported yesterday, a study by the Abu Dhabi Education Council found that more than one in four children use social media for five hours or more a day. According to experts, this is considered an addiction if it's done consecutively for more than two hours.

Spending long hours on these platforms, many of which are not always healthy or safe environments for children, may lead to serious issues. First, it exposes them to cyberbullies. Almost one in three respondents to the study said that they had been bullied online. This could lead to serious psychological issues that stay with them for life.

Social media use in teenagers is also linked to anxiety, poor sleep and an unhealthy diet. Forty-one per cent of participants admitted that their social media habits had caused them to go without food or drink for a long time. Children can also be easily lured by online groomers and recruiters, or into illegal activity.

These young people need guidance and support when using social media networks. Parents should ensure the online safety and privacy of their children. They also need to ensure that these networks are not affecting their diets or sleep, and encourage them away from the virtual world and into the real world.

Schools also play a role in raising awareness about social-media use, as they do with many life skills including road-safety awareness. As The National also reported yesterday, the "My First Licence – I Know My Road Rules" initiative has been used to teach 3,000 students from nine schools in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi about basic road rules.

The motorway and the information highway are similar in this respect. If you know the rules from an early age – and they are reinforced often – you are more likely to remain safe. It is the role of parents, teachers and the entire community to show the way.