Jeremy Edge, LPC
Navigating Social Media: Frequently Asked Questions about Healthy Social Media Use For Parents
I recently saw the LIKE documentary that explores the impact social media has on our society. The movie explores the positives and negatives with social media use. There are interviews with professionals in the tech world, teenagers using social media, and medical professionals. It’s a fascinating documentary providing insights on the effects of social media.
The LIKE movie helps parents navigate the social media world. They give practical tips to help us control our tech use rather than tech use controlling us. Here are some FAQs related to navigating healthy social media use.
How do I know if social media is a problem for my child?
Answer this question: Is social media adding value to their life?
It can be easy for us parents to see social media as clearly not adding any value to our child's life. However, many kids and teens can be left out of social groups if they have no social media presence. On the other hand, they could overuse social media and it can become a problem.
Here are signs social media is causing problems for your child.
They would rather use social media than other activities they used to enjoy.
They continue to use social media in spite of seeing negative consequences of their use.
They increase the amount of time spent on social media.
They become upset, angry, depressed, or anxious when social media is taken away.
They use social media to escape from negative situations.
Their grades suffer due to social media use and are unable to complete responsibilities.
They are unsuccessful at cutting back or stop using social media.
They are preoccupied with social media.
They lie to others about how much social media they use.
Social media use can add value to your child’s life. However, if they are struggling with these signs social media could be a problem.
As a parent, how do I help my child use social media?
Listen then Mentor
Talk openly about social media use. Hear your child’s perspective about social media. Learn about what drives them to use social media and why they enjoy it so much. Stay engaged and have an open mind about their perspective. As you listen, reflect back in your own words what you hear your child say. This will help them know you are really listening. Listening will help your child respect you and be more open to what you have to say.
Discuss reasons to have a healthy relationship with social media. Rather than expressing, “It’s my way or the highway,” help your child understand your perspective. Here is how to teach them healthy social media boundaries.
Set clear rules for when and how to use social media.
Promote real-life relationships and activities when your child is offline.
Have ongoing conversations about healthy social media and tech use. Continue to involve your kid’s perspective.
One of the best things we can do to help our children have a healthy relationship with social media is to be the positive role model.
Be intentional about putting down your phone when talking with them and your spouse. Engage in other activities outside of your device. If we want our kids to have a well-balanced life outside of screens, we need to have that for ourselves first.
What are healthy boundaries or limits for social media?
Here are some guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
From ages 2-5 years old 1-hour of high-quality programs (I.e. Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). High-quality programs are educational. Parents should co-view programs with their child to reiterate what they learned.
For kids 6 and older, screens should have consistent boundaries and not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
To help calculate healthy screen use for your child and family, check out the AAP Family Media Plan.
How do I enforce boundaries?
Use these six tips to enforce healthy social media boundaries.
Talk with your child about boundaries prior to enforcing them. Give a warning if you are able to.
Asking our kids to self-regulate social media use is a lot. Use parental control apps such as Net Nanny, OurPact, or Apple’s Screen Time to help.
If needed, take away device.
Use rewards, praise, and encouragement when positive choices are made. For rewards, let your child pick dinner, a movie, or board game to play.
Even though they might become upset, follow through and be consistent. They will eventually follow your directions when they know they cannot get away with breaking the rules. You have the power in the home, not your child.
What age should I give my child a phone or let them use social media?
It depends on their maturity level and environment. Are they mature enough to handle the responsibility of keeping this expensive device safe, not text in class, make healthy choices online, and not become consumed and hyper-focused on the device? If so, then they could be ready for a phone or social media.
To gauge when to get your child a phone, talk with other parents see what they are doing. Around middle and high school, social media becomes a big part of a kid’s social life. Not giving your child any access to social media might isolate them from their peers.
If you feel your child is too young but their peers have social media, give them a social media account through your phone. Sit with them as they connect and use the platform. This gives your child access to social media friendships and you the ability to mentor healthy online use.
When they do get a phone, set boundaries and guidelines. Continue to have open discussions with them about healthy tech use. Talk with them, not at them. They will listen to you more.
Should I know their password and see what they are posting?
Parents can justify having their teen’s passwords for social media by making sure they make healthy choices online. While you would be able to see exactly what your teen is posting, you will forfeit trust. It’s probably not a good idea to give your child social media if you don’t trust them online.
I would not suggest to know your child’s password because it will break down your relationship with them. If you are worried what they are posting online, talk with them about it. Focus on helping them make good choices online.
One way to see what your child is posting is for them add you as a friend. That way you don’t have to invade their privacy but still know what they are posting.
You ultimately cannot completely control your teen on or offline. Just as we guide, mentor, and teach our teens to make good decisions in the real world, so we must do that for the online world.
It’s okay if we don’t know all there is to know about social media. It’s almost impossible because it’s changing so fast. But we as parents do know how to navigate the real world. Let’s be a mentor and guide for our teens. Let's help them navigate social media and the Internet in a healthy, positive way.