While the internet and social media are excellent tools to help people stay connected with their family and friends, it can also be an unhealthy environment for many people, with the potential to increase anxiety and depression in teens and adults. If you are the parent of a teenager, it can be hard to help them have a healthier relationship with social media, but this article has some tips to help you with that.
Sometimes, setting boundaries is easier said than done, but a teenager needs to have boundaries and rules when it comes to their social media use. When you set these boundaries, make sure you explain to your teen why you are setting them their importance and how these can help them stay safe.
Some ideas for boundaries include setting up parental controls on their devices or giving them the rule that they cannot be on social media after a certain time of night.
Do Not Demonize Social Media
Dismissing social media as bad is just going to make your kids want to use it more. Avoid saying things like, “Why are you on that? Go outside and spend time with your real friends!” All this does is discourage your teens from talking to you about their lives online, which means if they have concerns later, they might not feel as comfortable talking to you about it.
Set Time Limits
No matter your age, social media can become addictive. One way to help keep your kids from becoming completely addicted to social media is to set time limits for how long they can be on social media each day. Parental controls may work, but your teen might be able to find a work around for that if they are tech savvy.
Once they have their own devices, do not give them access to it 24/7. One way to help them focus is to have them give you their phones when they are doing certain activities, like doing homework. At bedtime, remove their phone, tablet, and other devices from their bedrooms. If they give you the excuse that their alarm is on their phone, buy them an alarm clock that is not connected to the internet.
You can try getting a phone that comes with built-in parental controls to help keep your kids from getting around any parental control apps you might install.
Ask How They Feel When They Are Online
It is easy as a parent to get anxious about how much time your teen spends online and wonder what they are doing. That is why it is important to talk to your kids about how they feel when they are online. Try asking your teen some of these questions:
- How do you feel online?
- How do you feel with your friends?
- Do you feel pressured to do something even if you do not want to?
- Do other social media posts make you feel insecure about your body?
If they do not know the answer, do not pressure them to find an answer. Even just asking them the question will get them thinking about potential answers.
Help Maximize the Good
There can be a lot of negative impacts for your teen on social media, including cyberbullying, rumor spreading, comparing themselves to others, drama, distractions, anxiety, depression, and other issues. However, if you focus solely on the negative feelings, that can lead to only seeing it in a negative light.
Instead, think about the benefits that your teens get from social media: staying connected with family and friends, learning news, and meeting other people with similar interests. Part of maximizing the good might include encouraging your teens to unfriend or unfollow some of their friends and taking more breaks from social media.
Research Social Media Platforms
It is crucial for you, as a parent, to stay informed on current social media trends and the most popular platforms so you can stay current on which social media platforms to monitor. Knowing what platforms are popular is especially important so you can talk to your kids about content better.
There are also tools that can help parents monitor their teen’s social media accounts and set up alerts for keywords and phrases. By taking the time to learn more about the platforms and technology available, you will be able to keep a close eye on what your teens are exposed to, which can help them form healthier relationships with social media.
Take an Interest
Parents are often pretty quick to judge what they think is a valuable use of their children’s time and what is a waste. You might give them your full attention when they are talking about a play they are in or, their upcoming football game, or something that happened on the playground. However, when they start talking about something going on online, we might not pay as much attention to what they have to say. However, your teens have a whole life online. They have hobbies and friend groups with people online, so when they are talking to you about it, show the same amount of interest that you would if they were talking about something in the physical world.
Educate Your Teen About Staying Safe
Not many teens have the ability to accurately assess risks, whether they are online or in person, so it is important for parents to help their children with this. Teach your teens the importance of protecting their personal information online, explaining that it can be easy to accidentally give out too many personal details without realizing you are doing so. Also, teach them that we can often let go of our inhibitions online in an unhealthy way.
Take a close look at cyberbullying with your teens. Show them how they could fall victim to it and that they can always come to you if they experience it. It is also easy to show how they could end up falling into cyberbullying others without recognizing what they are doing.
About the Author
Auz Burger is a freelance writer and an expert in mental health. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade.