Facebook Pixel Swipe, Laugh, Repeat: Kids Caught in the Short Video Trap


Swipe, Laugh, Repeat: Kids Caught in the Short Video Trap

Endless streams of viral challenges and trending clips – short videos on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube are taking over our kids' screens. But how does this constant swiping and tapping impact their development? Time to find out.

Stefanie Parth
10/5/2023 • 5 min
Multiracial group of teenagers using their cell phones while standing against the wall

The Constant Craving for Something New

Our behavior in the digital realm is greatly influenced by a hormone: dopamine. Often labeled the "reward hormone," it's released when our brain perceives situations as positive or rewarding. When kids (and adults too) discover something new, intriguing, or surprising on their screens, it triggers a dopamine release. This gives us a satisfying, almost addictive feeling, driving us to repeat the behavior.

However, here lies the dilemma: With short videos, these reward cycles are triggered in rapid succession, leading to a never-ending chase for the next "hit". Our brains quickly learn that, with just a swipe, a new reward is always within reach.

Social media platforms have meticulously recognized and adapted to this behavioral pattern. Using algorithms powered by artificial intelligence, they curate content tailored to our interests, preferences, and past actions. They constantly assess which videos grab our attention, what we like, and who we share them with.

The outcome? A relentless stream of dopamine-inducing stimuli. Especially with short videos, each clip holds the potential to be our next "dopamine high" – a viral sensation, a burst of laughter, or the latest trend. The platform's algorithms are designed to prioritize such rewarding content, urging us to keep swiping and swiping and swiping.

5 Effects of Short Videos on Kids

1. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

In today's social media age, FOMO has become pervasive. This fear, amplified by platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube that constantly churn out fresh content, ensures every clip might be showcasing something new and exciting one shouldn't miss. For kids growing up in a time where social validation and belonging are often defined by social media, FOMO can be intensified. They want to "fit in", and the fear of not being updated or missing a trend can drive unchecked screen consumption.

The result? A vicious cycle of wanting to be online continuously, leading to increased screen time and associated health implications.

2. Shortened attention span

The world of short videos offers instant rewards. A mere swipe reveals something new, thrilling, or entertaining. Over time, this continuous shift from one content piece to another can challenge a kid's ability to focus on longer, less instantly gratifying tasks like reading or paying attention in class. Short videos might reinforce neural pathways accustomed to rapid information processing, sidelining the paths needed for deep, thoughtful information absorption.

Grandmother read book to little granddaughter interest her in literature, distracted small girl addicted to smartphone play game or watch video on cell, not listening to granny.

Short videos make less rewarding activities like reading less interesting to our brains.

3. Superficial learning

Short videos present quick snippets of information which kids easily absorb. Over time, this might train them to favor brief and superficial overviews rather than in-depth exploration. As a result, kids might find it more challenging to follow learning processes that require reflection and a deeper understanding.

4. Lack of patience

In a world where rewards are just a swipe away, concepts like "waiting" or "working towards a reward" can seem distant. This might result in kids becoming less patient, leading to heightened frustration when immediate desires aren't met and generally reduced perseverance when faced with challenges.

5. Sleep issues

Screens, especially those of smartphones and tablets, emit blue light, which can interfere with melatonin production. Consuming short videos before bedtime can affect sleep due to both the blue light and increased dopamine levels. Sleep is vital for kids' physical and mental development, so disturbances can have profound implications.

Tips for Mindful Usage

1. Reflect on your behavior:

Kids often emulate adult behaviors around them. Seeing you on your phone constantly can normalize that behavior. Reflect critically on your screen habits:

  • How often and why do I reach for my device?
  • Am I spending too much time on fleeting content?
  • Do I prioritize screen time over face-to-face family interactions?

Recognizing these patterns allows you to adjust your digital behavior, becoming a role model for your kid.

2. Set clear time limits:

Structure can help your kid manage screen time better. Ideas include:

  • Using Ohana to define device usage times.
  • Designate screen-free zones at home like the dining or bedroom.
  • Initiate "Digital Detox" times, perhaps a screen-free weekend monthly.

3. Select content wisely:

There's an abundance of quality digital content that's both educational and entertaining. You can:

4. Engage in screen time together:

Screen time doesn't have to be solitary. Make it quality time with your kid by:

  • Watching a video together and discussing it afterward.
  • Starting a digital creative project.
  • Trying out a new game or exploring an educational app together.

This gives you oversight on their media consumption and fosters bonding moments.

5. Turn off devices before bedtime:

The blue light from screens can disrupt the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, thus affecting the sleep cycle. Therefore, it's advisable to:

  • Use Ohana to set a schedule that automatically locks your kid's device overnight, ensuring it's not used at least an hour before bedtime. This establishes a routine and helps minimize temptations.
  • Introduce a relaxing evening ritual that isn't dominated by screens, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
  • Make your kid's room a screen-free zone, especially at bedtime.

By doing so, you're not only promoting healthy sleep for your kid but also fostering better sleep hygiene for the entire family.

The digital world offers more than just fleeting distractions. It provides a space for creativity and discovery. Our kids shouldn't only be familiar with these aspects but also engage with them – to become not just consumers but also creators.