What to Say When Social Media Does More Harm than Good for Your Child

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Modern information technology has transformed society. Now, after a few clicks, one can gather scholarly articles for a term paper, order holiday gifts, FaceTime a loved one, or check the news. Humans today now have more power at our fingertips than was ever thought possible. 

Additionally, modern social media platforms allow us to keep up with old friends, network with other businesspeople, send family members birthday messages, and generally feel more connected with others even when physical distance is a factor. However, what is the cost for children of this increased connectedness?

A recent CNN Business article by Samantha Murphy Kelly highlights some of the potential negative impacts of social media on our youth. These negative impacts include Internet addiction, increased anxiety, depression, body image concerns, and poor coping skills. 

Moreover, parents are seemingly at a loss as to how to respond. Social media was not a core component of the growing up process for many of today’s parents, and there is so much uncertainty surrounding how to effectively protect children’s mental health. More research and interventions are needed to combat the potential perils of social media for children.  

How can we better protect children’s mental health in the information age? 

Below are some tips for parents with children on social media:

  1. Check in with your child. Many children may be turning to social media influencers and other online individuals for emotional support. Take time each day to check in with your child. Ask them about their day, how they’re doing emotionally, and what resources they need to bolster their wellbeing. Find a consistent time each day to check in and provide support.
  2. Watch The Social Dilemma or another documentary that warns of social media’s perils. Sometimes kids need another spokesperson besides a parent to get the message through their heads. Have a movie night with your children where you watch a documentary like The Social Dilemma that provides information and insights into how social media can negatively impact people. After watching the documentary, have a discussion with your children about what they learned and how they plan to protect themselves from social media. 
  3. Lead by example. Your kids watch and copy what you do-even if they don’t admit it. This is a social phenomenon in psychology that we call social learning. Model good social media behavior. Don’t be on Facebook while out to dinner or spending time with your family. Set boundaries with yourself regarding how much time you spend on social media. Stay away from social media near bedtime. Also communicate to your children why you set these boundaries for yourself.
  4. Technology is a tool, not a reward. When rewarding your children, don’t use social media or screen time as prizes. This may inadvertently cause them to overestimate the importance of social media and the digital world. Reward them with things in real life
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