Are you a parent feeling overwhelmed by all of the social media that your child is consuming? Not sure how to effectively communicate the harms that social media can have on them without them rolling their eyes? Or maybe you want to go to dinner with your child and see their face not being illuminated by the light of a screen the entire time?
We at Lifeologie are here to help foster that conversation with your child to set boundaries around the use of social media. Setting boundaries around screen time and the use of social media can greatly improve your child’s emotional and mental health, school performance, development, sleep habits and self-esteem.
Social media can be beneficial in your child’s development as it may help in creating and maintaining connections, creating a sense of belonging and identity, and learning about topics that are of interest to them. However, it’s okay for you to have limits!
Here are some tips and tricks to help communicate boundaries to your child. These boundaries should be shared with your child, ask them their thoughts about these boundaries, allow them to offer suggestions, and be prepared to model these boundaries yourself.
Any boundaries that you are setting with your child, try to model these expectations yourself. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Limit your own media use. By limiting your own social media use, you’ll be more available for your children, which will increase interactions, hugs and conversation with them.
As a parent, ask yourself “How much time do I spend on social media a day?” Are you willing to have your child spend that much time as well? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one to two hours a day, which includes the use of social media, watching tv shows/movies, playing video games etc. As a family determine, how much screen time is going to be allowed and model this with your child.
Keep family mealtimes, family and social gatherings, and children’s bedrooms screen free. Turn off televisions that you aren’t watching; background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight, outside of bedrooms to help avoid the temptation to use them. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.
Get familiar with different social media apps including Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc. Knowing how different apps work will allow you to engage in a more knowledgeable and effective conversation with your child. Children need to know that once content is shared with others, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely, and includes sharing inappropriate pictures with others.
They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings, and they need to be warned that online predators often use social networking, e-mail, and online gaming to contact and exploit children. Many children need to be reminded that a platform’s privacy settings do not make things actually “private” and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely.
Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about their own identity and their place in the world. Just be sure your child is behaving appropriately in both the REAL and ONLINE worlds. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you’re there if they have questions or concerns.
Engaging in an open conversation with your child before or when they first start using social media will be the most effective in setting realistic boundaries and expectations. If your child is already using social media, a conversation can still occur, but know that there may be more resistance and questioning. Listen to your child, ask them questions and for suggestions, compromise if possible, and be willing to model all boundaries yourself.
Lastly, your child will make mistakes online. Try to handle these errors with empathy and education. Try to turn each mistake into a teachable moment. Be consistent in consequences and hold firm boundaries. You got this!
Chanler Burns is a Limited Licensed Master Social Worker (LLMSW) at Lifeologie Grand Rapids. She specializes in working with young children, tweens, and teens. She uses play therapy and other creative means to help children process through trauma and communicate their emotions and worries. Chanler knows that parenting and growing up can be tough, so she is here to help navigate and support both parents and children through anything that life throws your way.