Author: Sloane Johnson
It’s official! Most of our teenage kids are addicted to social media.
If they’re not religiously checking Snap- chat or TikTok every two minutes, they are voicing their opinions on current social issues on Facebook or Twitter. Some are shopping for new clothes, scrolling through hilarious memes online or are even looking for love. All of this time online isn’t only changing how they view the world – it’s also changing how the world views them!
With social media playing such a big role in teen culture worldwide it is important to ensure that they are using these sites responsibly. Social media allows teens the opportunity to create online identities and build international social networks. While
these networks can provide a wealth of information, entertainment and self- expression, it is important to note the potential associated risks with extended online exposure.
A number of studies have linked social media to increased cases of sleep deprivation, depression, bullying and anxiety in teens aged 12-19. Additional studies on the impact of social media use on graduate students showed that the longer they used social media, the stronger their belief that others were happier than they were. However, the more time the students spent engaging in face-to-face interactions, the less they felt this way.
Due to the instant access to information that social media provides, and the impulsive nature of teens, it is suggested that teens who spend more time on social media are more at risk of sharing inappropriate content, often without considering the consequences. In this digital age, it is important for teens to remember that everything they post online remains online and is searchable, even if they believe that they deleted it.
Future employers, colleges and universities, and even sports teams, are now using social media as a part of their recruitment process and the things our teens post today could potentially hinder their eligibility for future opportunities.
Have no fear, there are steps that we can take as parents to encourage responsible social media usage:
Lay the Ground Rules – Talk to your teen about the apps they are allowed to use and the amount of time they are allowed to be on social media, making sure that it doesn’t interfere with extracurricular activities or homework. Some families use a ‘Family Media Agreement’ to set realistic expectations. It is important to lead by example and follow these rules yourself.
Spot Check – As the parent and cellular account holder, you are legally responsible for your child’s device. Let your teen know that you will be checking their device from time to time.
Set Boundaries – Let your teen know what is okay and what is not okay for them to post online. Discourage gossiping, bullying and sharing of inappropriate content. This includes videos and photos of victims of a crime or accident.
Send them outside – Encourage your teen to engage in healthy face-to-face relationships by getting outside and meeting up with friends. Teens who spend more time physically interacting with friends are less likely to develop depression or anxiety.
Lead by example – Ensure that you are modeling the behaviour on your own social media profiles that you would like your teen to model. Hopefully we haven’t scared you!
Social media isn’t all bad. Teens also use social media to share artwork or music, find community and support for specific interests, stay connected to family and friends at home and overseas, collaborate on school assignments and so much more.
That fact of the matter is that social media and other technologies are here to stay and unless we learn to embrace them while maintaining a healthy level of caution, we will become limited in what we can do. Using these technologies responsibly opens up a world of possibilities that being completely disconnected simply cannot match. Finding the right balance is key to ensuring a positive online experience for both teens and parents.