Social media and the world of parenting
Updated: Feb 7
In 2019, a comprehensive social media guide was published for parents entitled, "Parents: What You Wish You Knew." Presented as a quick guide to the basics of social media, this e-book aims to be a one-stop-shop for parents seeking answers and guidelines to put in place so that their children and teens could stay safe online.
On page 2 of the guide, it asserts (without directly stating) that smartphone and social media usage directly impact children's and teens' mental and behavioral health issues. It argues that the increase in mental health cases such as depression, anxiety, and suicide corresponds directly to the rise in smartphone usage.
Throughout the pdf, it also provides quick and easy privacy management tips for parents so they can better monitor their child's social media and smartphone use. This information can be very useful to parents who may not know the ins and outs of each popular platform.
New research, however, suggests that the argument made in this pdf – social media causes depression in children – is way too generalized and doesn't take into account the MANY THINGS children can do using technology, smartphones, and social media channels. This research is vital for parents to be aware of, as well.
What can parents do, then, as a response to this back-and-forth debate regarding smartphone use and social media?
Is social media and technology safe for kids?
The short answer: it depends.
Here's what you should consider –
1. Trust your gut. Parental instinct is a powerful force, and it shouldn't be ignored when talking about social media, privacy, data, and the potential perils of social media or technology use. If you feel something's wrong, it's best to trust that instinct.
2. Pay attention to the age restrictions on social media networks. On most social media networks, you should be 13 to get an account. There is nothing in place, however, that prevents children much younger than this from starting an account on their own (without their parents knowing). Educate yourself on what a "Finsta" account is and know that even if you don't know about it, your children could have one or more social media profiles. Other networks, such as Twitter, have an age rating of 17+ on the app store. Some people don't realize this. There is VERY mature content on this site that may not be appropriate for kids at all.
3. Have an open discussion with your children about the dangers they may encounter. Many times, we ban or restrict something because it's an easy fix. What's more difficult as a parent is building the kind of bond where a child feels comfortable enough to be open with you about some of the things they might see online. It is up to parents to be proactive in setting up healthy communication with their children about the potential dangers, predators, and problems they could encounter due to poor online decision-making.
4. Know your child. As a parent, you have to know your child. If he or she is a little less mature than his or her peers, maybe they aren't ready for social media accounts on their own. Each child is different, and there are no clear or set rules on what's appropriate. It's up to the parents to make those decisions based on the character of your child.
5. Model healthy behavior yourself. If children see mindless scrolling from the adults in their lives, they could easily mirror that type of behavior. The adults in the room must be adults in the room. This behavior includes what you're posting, when and how often you're posting, and how obsessed you become with the content on each site. Children often mirror the behavior they see from others, so fixing their issues with social networks might mean fixing our own issues with social networks.
Parents: what healthy social media and technology habits are YOU embracing?
What are YOU doing to set positive examples?
How do YOU talk to your children about technology?
What steps will YOU take to ensure your child has a healthy, positive, productive relationship with the burgeoning networks popping up left and right?