The Influence of Peers and Social Media on Our Children: Parenting Guide

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 26, 2024

In a world dominated by screens and social media, it's essential to recognize the profound influence peers can have on our children.

Real Love® teaches us that our children are like neurologic sponges, absorbing information and behaviors from their surroundings at an astonishing rate.

Every interaction, every event, and every influence matters, shaping their developing brains and impacting their future.

Let's start with a heartwarming story that illustrates the power of positive influence.

Meet Mom, who has been learning how to LoveandTeach her seven-year-old daughter, Yuki, about love and responsibility.

The transformation in their family has been remarkable, with whining, teasing, and anger fading away.

One day, Mom and Yuki visited a commercial indoor playground, where they encountered another seven-year-old girl, Sarah. Sarah had never been taught love and responsibility, but Mom saw an opportunity to make a difference. She taught Sarah how to ask for what she wanted and how to clean up toys after use. Sarah quickly adapted, and the three of them had a wonderful time.

Peer Pressure Takes a Toll

However, their idyllic time together took a turn when three older girls, around ten years old, entered the room. These girls were engrossed in their phones, watching social media and openly mocking others. Sarah, influenced by their behavior, decided to join them, and within ten minutes, her attitude underwent a dramatic shift.

She started throwing toys on the floor, refused to clean up after herself, and exhibited a snotty attitude toward Yuki's mother. When asked to clean up, Sarah defiantly declared, "I don't have to clean up anything. You can't make me."

The Power of Peer Influence and Social Media

This story underscores the powerful influence peers can exert on our children. It demonstrates how quickly a child's attitude can change when exposed to negative peer pressure. Our children, like Sarah, are vulnerable to the influences of the kids around them.

But the impact doesn't stop there. In today's digital age, our children spend an average of eight hours a day on screens, soaking up a torrent of ideas, many of which are harmful. Social media platforms, in particular, are filled with content that glorifies conflict, victimhood, racism, anti-racism, emotional attacks, gossip, self-harm, substance use, and disrespect towards authority figures.

Social media thrives on drama and sensationalism, drawing our children into a world where negativity and dysfunction are portrayed as normal and desirable. Online influencers peddle harmful attitudes and behaviors, leading our children down a perilous path.

Some governments have recognized the dangers of excessive screen time and peer influence. The United Kingdom's Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, took a significant step on October 2, 2023, by banning mobile phone use in schools. This move aimed to address issues like poor mental health, cyberbullying, and classroom disruptions caused by phones.

In June 2023, Finland, a country known for its excellence in education, implemented a similar ban to improve learning outcomes and tackle classroom disruptions and cyberbullying. These actions send a clear message about the importance of limiting screen time and peer influence in educational settings.

Protecting Our Children from the Influence of Peers and Social Media

Despite these measures, many parents hesitate to limit or eliminate their children's phone use due to fear of their child’s disapproval. However, the solution is simple: we cannot multitask effectively, especially children. It begs the question: Is the education and preparation of our children for life not a top priority? The answer is a resounding "YES."

Our children's education not only prepares them for their careers but also teaches them responsibility. Most importantly, at home, we impart love, happiness, and the values that will guide them throughout their lives. However, can they absorb these vital principles while their faces and souls are buried in screens?

The answer is a resounding "NO." Our children cannot learn and grow when constantly distracted and addicted to the harmful content propagated by those who profit from their addiction, just as tobacco companies designed their products to addict users. Our children are drowning in a sea of dopamine, moving from one excitement to another, and being poisoned by the very waters that captivate them.

The story of Sarah serves as a stark reminder of how quickly a child's attitude can change under peer influence. We cannot stand by and allow our children to be seduced by a world that leads them away from genuine connection, Real Love®, and happiness. We must take action.

As parents, it is our responsibility to be vigilant against negative influences and prepare our children accordingly. Sometimes, we must shield them from dangers they cannot fully comprehend, such as the addictive nature of phones.

Do you have the courage to remove your child's phone, to let go of this source of distraction and toxicity? It is a decision that requires bravery but brings peace to your child and your home.

LoveandTeach your children to navigate the treacherous waters of peer influence and screen addiction, guiding them toward a future filled with genuine connection, Real Love®, and happiness.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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