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Published on December 8, 2023

How to Talk to Your Kids About Social Media and Mental Health

Social media simplifies making friends. On the other side, it is a source of multiple addictive habits, psychological disruption, and loss of social skills.

In this article, we shall discuss how to speak with children about social media to maximize its benefits and cut the downsides.

On average, a kid gets their first smartphone at age 10, according to research by Linda Charmaraman. By the age of 13, they usually have several social media accounts and, sometimes, even make big money by blogging.

Yet, while most of the world uses phones and social media apps as pacifiers, Silicon Valley parents stay cool in letting their kids use tech. Surprisingly, people who make money in social media app development are not fond of their products. Pierre Laurent, a tech specialist who worked for Microsoft and Intel, says his kids are asked to leave their phones on a table at home. In his interview with CBS News, he assures the tech industry makes products to hook users, and the outcomes of the teens and screens saga still need to be clarified.

Estimating the effects of such an early access to the social media may be challenging. It depends on what your kids are doing there: watching videos of cuddly cats and funny dances or following bloggers promoting unhealthy lifestyles.

According to research by a team from Wellesley College, USA, children under 11 who use Instagram or TikTok are more likely to develop problematic digital behaviors, like having online-only friends or visiting websites promoting unhealthy content.

According to research by Isobel Heyman, children who use TikTok develop tics and have tic-like attacks.

Other adverse effects include increased irritability, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

These data prove that children are not mature enough to build healthy digital lifestyles without parents’ help.

Yet, studying your kids’ social habits may be like walking on a tightrope. If you press too much, you risk ruining the trust, and if you ignore what they do, you risk skipping something important or even dangerous.

6 Key Rules for Parents to Follow

Therefore, parents who wish to talk to kids about social media should follow specific rules:

  1.   Lead by example: teaching your kids healthy digital habits is hard if you possess them yourself. Therefore, parents should balance virtual and real-life activities and show their kids that real-life relations and friendships are more important than those on the web.
  2.   Explain that privacy matters: teach your kids to respect their borders and not share personal information on unknown websites.
  3.   Differentiate between positive and negative social behavior: tell your kids to speak nicely to others online and avoid bullying and inappropriate messaging.
  4.   Stay calm: it sometimes happens that your kid is engaged in something you don’t like. A harsh reaction to this may be harmful. Try to understand your kid’s motivation, feelings, and plans. Explain calmly why you consider such behavior inappropriate.
  5.   Teach to select and estimate influencers: Instagram influencers presenting seemingly perfect lives online may become a negative role models for teens. For example, a recent “thinspiration” trend online led to numerous eating disorders among kids.
  6.   Help them if needed: sometimes, your kids will ask your opinion on a picture to post or show you posts they liked and want to share. It is essential to demonstrate a sincere interest in their likes and tastes.

Summing up

A parent of today can only teach about healthy social media behavior and app use while possessing a healthy attitude towards tech themselves. Therefore, before talking with your teens about their behavior and time on screens, becoming a strong and respected example of such behavior is essential.

Author’s bio: Anastasiia Lastovetska is a technology writer at MLSDev, a software development company that builds web & mobile app solutions from scratch. She researches the area of technology to create great content about app development, UX/UI design, tech & business consulting.

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