Zuckerberg Apologizes, What Parents Should Know About Social Media
NC Family Staff | February 12, 2024 | SHARE:
Last week, Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to parents attending a U.S. Senate hearing on online child safety. Dozens of parents in attendance said that Instagram contributed to their children’s suicides or exploitation.
“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” Zuckerberg said after being pressed about whether he would apologize to the parents directly. “It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
Also present for the hearing were the CEOs of X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, Discord, and Snap.
Social Media Companies Need to be Held Accountable
The data has come out, and it is decidedly not in social media’s favor. There has been a stark decline in mental health that began right when social media started gaining popularity. For example, Facebook became available to the public in 2006, and the Centers for Disease Control found that suicide rates among persons aged 10–24 increased 57.4% between 2007 and 2018. There are obviously more factors at play here, but there is an undeniable connection between social media use and mental health, and the companies responsible for these platforms are profiting from it.
This issue has become undeniable to the point that it is receiving widespread bipartisan attention and support. Last year, 41 states – including North Carolina – filed a lawsuit against Meta and its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for harming young people. These states claim that Meta has tailored the platform to intentionally capture the attention of young people and keep them engaged, prioritizing their own profit over the well-being of its users.
The Claims Against These Companies
The lawsuit, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, researchers, and many parents all claim that social media platforms – particularly Meta – are encouraging unhealthy behaviors in teens. This includes things like:
In response to one case where a teen died while playing Russian roulette to create content for social media, Matt Bergman with the Social Media Victims Law Center said, “This was a result of design decisions by social media companies to put user engagement over user safety.” He adds, “Young people’s brains don’t have the reasoning of older people…the social media companies prey upon that vulnerability for maximizing advertising revenue.”
How Parents Should Respond
While these companies need to be held responsible for their actions, it is still up to individuals and parents to press from responsible social media use. Social media can be an amazing tool, but only if it is used in a healthy manner. Here are a few things you can do to help protect your child from the dangers of social media.
Talk to your children about the dangers of social media and how they can use it responsibly. This can include things like setting time limits, the importance of avoiding harmful content, or even possibly taking a break from social media altogether.
Create a list of family policies and expectations to help everyone use media in a healthy way.
Evaluate your own habits. Are you modeling what it looks like to be a healthy consumer of media?
Encourage open dialog with your child so that if something does come up, they know they have a safe space where they can talk about it.
Here are some resources to help you throughout this process:
Book: Following Jesus in a Digital Age by Jason Thacker
It is heartbreaking to watch the lives of teenagers be ruined because of dangerous influences and ill-advised choices. This is why it is critical that parents play an active role in their child’s life. We pray that our society will see the harm being done, and continue to take steps to protect children.