If you’re a parent like me you’ve probably spent hours consumed with thoughts about social media and the impact it has or will have on your child(ren). Growing up in a world that uses social media in so many ways it is inevitable that there will be a time when our children will want to join this world if they haven’t already. So how do we protect kids and youth from the negative effects of social media while still allowing them to enjoy the positives? A good place to start is with staying informed as parents, establishing boundaries around the use of these technologies, and communicating with our kids on their use of social media.
Pros and Cons
Social media isn’t all bad. It centers around communication and social interaction which is vital for human beings. It allows young people to connect with their friends, share their interests, express themselves, play games and learn new things. But for parents the positives don’t always outweigh the negatives. Unfortunately, banning our kids from social media probably isn’t a solution that will work out well in the long run and there is a lot to be weary of. Negatives include the effects on mental health and self-esteem, cyber-bullying, predators, loss of real-life connections and isolation, and the fear of missing out a.k.a. FOMO.
So What Can We Do?
The main thing we can do as parents is to stay informed, monitor and limit the use of social media, keep the discussion on this topic ongoing with our kids, and keep them busy with other things.
Monitor and Limit Social Media Use
Data from JAMA Psychiatry suggests that spending over 3 hours each day on social media may increase the risk of mental health problems in adolescents, so this is a good limit to start with. You can also think about creating a family media agreement which sets boundaries and outlines the expectations of device use in your family. Finally, there are apps available such as Qustodio which automatically limit screen time so we can determine when content is accessible to them. Many of these top parental control apps include additional features such as location tracking, call and text monitoring and some like Bark even monitor for cyber-bullying and suicidal behaviour.
Keep Open Communication
Aside from directly monitoring and limiting social media it is important to keep open communication with our kids. Talking to them about what is going on at school and with friends is essential to spotting problems such as cyber-bullying. Educating them on the permanence of their posts, privacy issues, and the ways social media manipulates and impacts our perception of reality is also important to keep them rooted in the real world. You can find many resources online to help educate yourself and your kids such as Media Smarts and Telus Wise.
Keep Them Busy
Finally, keeping them busy with friends, activities and sports will help by giving them less time to be online and more chances to engage in real life.
What do you do to help keep your child(ren) safe online? What has worked or hasn’t worked for you? Let’s keep the conversation going, share your comments below.
Parents are thoughts of your kids on social media keeping you up at night? Get some safety tips and join our discussion at https://tinyurl.com/5h3z2wnp
Parents are you worried about your kids social media use? Get some safety tips and join our discussion at https://tinyurl.com/5h3z2wnp
I absolutely loved your blog! Being a reader who is yet to face these challenges I still think about them. This is social media now, we know how it was a couple years ago and how it has only grown since. I can only imagine what it will be like when I have kids. I really enjoyed reading your pros and cons! Although social media has negative effects, there are still great ways to learn from it. I know it has taught me many different things, but after reading this I now have a better understanding of how my parents might have felt when I signed up for my first app.
Hi, thank you for your informative post. We have found that communication is really important – particularly teaching our kids how to evaluate the media that they are exposed to. Additionally, we find that rather than setting limits on social media use, your third suggestion of keeping them busy with offline activities works very well for keeping balance between online and real life.
Great post, Sarah! I don’t have kids of my own yet but am very protective of my nephew who is 9 and worry about cyberbullying and what he can get into online. I love your points about keeping communication open and keeping them busy with other activities. I will be doing this when I have kids and they start going online.
Hello, I really enjoyed your article. I have twin boys and this is a big concern of mine. With our internet provider we can limit there screen time on every device. But my concern is more about what they are doing online. I really like the written agreement idea. I am gonna use that one for sure. Thanks