UAE: Up to 12 hours on social media, sleeping with phones; are your kids addicted to the digital world?

Social media safety should be part of the curriculum, says Hanan Ezzeldin, founder and CEO of The Family Hub


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by

Waheed Abbas

Published: Tue 30 May 2023, 6:57 AM

Last updated: Tue 30 May 2023, 4:03 PM

Teenagers are spending excessive time on social media, resulting in a lack of sleep, and the impact of this is as serious as drug addiction, experts have warned.

“On average, teenagers spend 6 to 12 hours daily on social media outside school hours. Children are not getting enough sleep of 8 to 10 hours anymore. They often sleep with phones in their hands and wake up in the middle of the night to check messages, videos and how many likes they have [on their posts]. If we’re allowing all of this, it’s become an addiction,” said Hanan Ezzeldin, founder and CEO of The Family Hub.

“Research has revealed that screen time is an addiction like drugs. We, as parents, have to put our foot down and say how much time kids can spend online. We also need to find alternatives to social media use for kids,” Ezzeldin said during a panel discussion held to discuss safety and digital well-being by social media giant TikTok.

She stressed engaging with kids and teenagers, with parents being their role models.

Co-viewing with kids

“First of all, we need to be role models. As a parent, if we are always putting on social media what we eat at breakfast and all daily routines, then kids will follow that. Even if we share something that we should not have, we must talk about it, own up, and admit that we made a mistake and we’re deleting it. Always be there for kids because they will do stupid things, which is not unusual for kids. We need to discuss bullying at home with them,” she said during the panel discussion.

The Family Hub CEO pointed out that screen addiction is instant gratification.

She advised that when kids watch cartoons and songs, watch with them and talk about them. “Co-viewing is a very important tool. But don’t watch during the meal.”

Part of the curriculum

Hanan Ezzeldin pointed out that schools are becoming digital, so kids get 5 or 6 hours of digital time daily.

“Train kids how to be safe online and raise awareness on bullying. Schools can involve the community by sharing videos of community services. The curriculum also needs to be involved, as education cannot be limited to just science and math. There should be a proper curriculum of social media safety and character building of the kids,” she said.

Citing an example, she added that since parents can’t leave kids unattended in malls, similarly, they can’t be left alone in the world of the internet.

“We are the first generation of parenting, and our biggest role is to educate kids and let them make mistakes and let us be there when mistakes happen.”

Kevin Morgan, head of trust and safety at TikTok Europe, Middle East & Africa, also spoke about the need for content classification for different age groups for the safety and digital and mental well-being of teenagers.

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