Posted July 25, 2018 05:04:29 A new study has found that while parents are right to use social media to share information with their kids, the messages they send may be unintentionally reinforcing the harmful messages they receive.
Key points:”Toxic messages” are the messages parents send to their children that reinforce harmful messages that their kids receiveThe study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that parents who send toxic messages may also be encouraging their children to engage in behaviours that can contribute to their own negative thoughts.
“The study shows parents need to be careful not to send messages that reinforce unhealthy beliefs about what is healthy and good,” lead researcher Dr Sarah Ritter said.
“But there is also a risk of reinforcing harmful messages.”
The researchers analysed 474 Facebook messages from 1,000 parents.
They found that messages that were “toxic” were the messages that parents send their children, but also that their children were not allowed to use them to express themselves.
“These messages may cause children to think about their own behaviour and think they’re not allowed or that they’re bad,” Dr Ritter explained.
“And this is actually a really big problem, because it’s not just the parents that are making the decisions that their child is going to engage with.
It’s also the children themselves.”
Dr Ritter, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Psychology, said the toxic messages that people send their kids can have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing.
“Children are at higher risk of being bullied because they are in situations where they feel vulnerable and insecure,” she said.”[It’s] a lot easier for children to do things that they shouldn’t because they’re so young.”
Dr Ruth Thompson, a researcher at the University and the Australian Research Council, said parents were “right to talk about things like obesity, substance use, anxiety, stress, bullying”.
“They’re right to be concerned about those things,” she explained.”[But] we also need to recognise that these are just a part of the larger picture, and that we need to do more to address those other things, which we’re doing in a number of ways.”
Dr Thompson said there were “quite a few people that don’t have a clear understanding of the harmful effects of toxic messages” and that it was not the messages themselves that were causing the problems.