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The pitfalls of social media

A 2021 study by European researchers notes the hours of media consumption for children increases with their age. The average for 8-year-olds was 4 hours and 28 minutes a day and the average for 12-year-olds was 8 hours and 14 minutes. Social media use is recommended at 30 minutes per day.

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MOTLEY, Minn. — Sivert Klefsaas was a viral star even before he joined social media.

The central Minnesota student stayed off of social media for six years.

It’s so unusual for a young person to stay away from social media that the story has been shared across the state and nationally, such as on “Good Morning America,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” ABC’s “World News Now” and in The Washington Post.

Sivert started the challenge at 12 years old through to his 18th birthday in his senior year at Staples-Motley High School. With $1,800 for completing the challenge, his online presence jumped thanks to the challenge his mom, Lorna Klefsaas, set for him.

Sivert Klefsaas was excited to accept the challenge and use his competitive spirit similar to a basketball or football game.

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“He did really dig in.” Lorna Klefsaas shared with Kare 11 . “He was like ‘I'm not breaking this.’ I'm proud of him, because there were a few times where it was harder.”

Besides the time savings that come with staying away from social media, there may be health benefits, too.

A 2021 study by European researchers notes the hours of media consumption for children increases with their age. The average for 8-year-olds was 4 hours and 28 minutes a day and the average for 12-year-olds was 8 hours and 14 minutes. Social media use is recommended at 30 minutes per day.

The extra time on social media can also impact anxiety and depression and people’s sleep quality, as shared by the Mayo Clinic with reference to a 2016 study of 450 teens.

Managing your time on social media

These days much of the world seems to live on social media, from the daily lives of your friends to fun events coming up, business notices, your favorite superstars, general news and talking with friends and family members. As of October 2021, We Are Social reported there are over 4.5 billion social media users around the world.

Our feeds show us the best of people’s lives and, at times, the worst of how people interact with each other.

“You just hear about all the stuff that goes on and just with my friends and with school, and like, ‘oh somebody said this about you’ and ‘oh somebody did that.’ And I was really spared from all that,” Sivert shared with Kare 11.

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With students in kindergarten through fourth grade having a cellphone, tablet or gaming device and social media prevalent throughout society, Staples-Motley district social workers talk with students about who they are ‘friends’ with online. Elementary social worker Hallie Bergeson said the district starts internet safety discussions in first grade on digital citizenship, digital footprint and cyberbullying.

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“I have a lot of conversations with students about their social media use, what is appropriate and what isn't,” said Kesha Holst, Staples-Motley middle school social worker, in an email to the Pioneer Journal. “I have a lot of conversations trying to figure out why it is so important to have "likes" on their videos, and/or if students really know the people they are "friends" with on social media platforms.”

In these online spaces, people are connected with friends of all ages around the world. As the district’s community education and communications and marketing director, Loren Walz is communicating with families and sharing about the district’s successes on a daily basis. Walz said “we’re connected all the time.”

She sees this constant connection in her work and personal life, which she works on balancing by responding only to urgent messages outside of work. The times “bleed together” often, she says, but because of her work time on social media she spends less personal time on her accounts. She said “there is something as too much” time on social media.

The pandemic increased virtual connections, online learning and spreading misinformation. The University of Washington, while highlighting the benefits and challenges of social media for academic use, noted using Twitter for discussions and connecting student groups on Facebook as beneficial.

“Social media can be a great way to stay connected and obtain new information and skills,” Bergeson said in an email. “Social media is not going anywhere, so I think it's important to have discussions early on.”

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Navigating social media

If there’s one word for how the district’s social workers hope students navigate social media, it’s cautiously. They talk with students about making good choices about what to share on their accounts with their safety in mind.

“It is important for students to be mindful of who or what is safe to be involved with. This form of connection with people can make it difficult to identify risks and hazards,” said Maggie Borg, Staples-Motley High School social worker, in an email. “Again, social media can have adverse effects. It is important to be mindful of use so that the negativities that may exist don’t have such a strong impact on students.”

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Throughout the day, Borg said students are encouraged to have “positive interactions and relationships.” She added that communicating in-person outside of the digital world is a “big difference in communicating, sharing, and interpreting information.”

“I believe social media captures the attention of students to where it can be a challenge to keep them focused,” Borg said. “I see that communication through social media has changed the way students interact and communicate with each other.”

“You love to see when people use it for all those positive reasons and it makes you a little sad when you see the ugly come out on social media, which I get to see sometimes in my job,” Walz said. “You just want people to be thoughtful and intentional in how they use it. And use it as a resource for good, and not a weapon for unpleasant exchanges.”

Related Topics: NEWSMDMINNESOTASOCIAL MEDIA
Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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