There is no denying that social media platforms have boomed in recent years. In fact, The Mayo Clinic (2022) reports that an estimated 45% of teens ages 13-17 are online “almost constantly”, with social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Snapchat being the most popular.
Whether you are an avid social media poster/user or prefer to navigate life offline, there is no doubt that social media plays a huge role in influencing our youth – both positively and negatively.
For example, social media platforms are places where teens can connect with others, and in many cases, find valuable support systems that might be harder to find in person. For example, a teen with a chronic illness might find an online support group with other teens fighting the same battle. Social media is also home to a plethora of opportunities to connect with others with similar interests in hobbies, music, television, sports, etc.
On the flip side, social media can be damaging at times. Teens often report that social media use is the reason for losing sleep at night and getting distracted from class, homework, or chores. The Mayo Clinic also reports that teens who spend more than three hours per day on social media may have a heightened risk of developing mental health problems.
The issue for teens (and let’s face it, adults as well) is that social media portrays a highlight reel for so many. For example, it’s easy to look at another person’s Facebook story and think they have it all together, but the reality is that we are much more comfortable posting our joys for others to share than our sorrows.
5 Tips for Guiding Your Child’s Social Media Use
So, how can we help the youth in our life use social media responsibly? How can we make sure that social media makes their life better – not worse? Here are a few tips to get started.
Start a conversation
Talk with your teen about using social media responsibly. Set the expectation that social media use should not interfere with school or responsibilities. It’s also a good idea to set limits on social media use at night (i.e. no electronics after a certain time of the evening) in order to maintain good sleep hygiene.
Monitor your teen’s social media accounts
This one is controversial. I want to give my eleven-year-old child some privacy, but my responsibility as her parent is to keep her safe. Monitoring her phone usage is important in ensuring that the contact she is having with others is healthy and appropriate.
Be clear about what is not okay
Have a direct conversation about what is not okay in regards to social media use. Explain to your teen that engaging in gossiping and engaging in bullying via social media is not appropriate. You should also make sure that your teen feels safe disclosing to you if those things are happening to him/her online.
Encourage “offline” communication
Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to engage in face-to-face contact with their friends in the real world. This is a great way to balance out social media use, while also helping them build good communication skills, self-esteem, and confidence.
Set a good example
We have a responsibility to teach our children how to use social media in positive ways. That’s why it is so important to model appropriate social media use for your children and teens. If you would be embarrassed if your child stumbled across your accounts, it may be time to review your social media posting philosophy.
Further Resources on Social Media & Mental Health
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on social media and mental health.
- Shelby’s article Being Mentally Well Online: 7 Steps to a Healthy Media Diet
- Online mental health guide from Mind
- Social Media and Mental Health from HelpGuide
At The Lily-Jo Project, we understand that parenting and working with youth can be challenging. That’s why we offer a variety of parenting and mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance.
We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.