How parents can help teens navigate social media
NEW YORK — In May, the United States surgeon general, Dr Vivek H. Murthy, issued a public warning of the risks of social media use to young people. The Times asked some experts: What is one practical strategy that caregivers can use with their kids to help mitigate the harms of social media?
EARLY ON, BE VERY HANDS-ON
In a list of recommendations released in May, the American Psychological Association suggested adults closely monitor social media use in children 10 to 14. Experts say this is a critical window to teach good habits. A family might decide that a child will be limited to one app at first, and that for the first six months or so, parents will review posts and friend requests with their child.
HOLD YOUR FIRMEST BOUNDARIES AT NIGHT
That means no screens at a time that will affect your teen’s ability to get at least eight or nine hours of sleep. It also means no smartphones or tablets in the bedroom overnight. “We know from so much research on sleep that people do not sleep as well, or as long, if their phone is within arm’s reach,” said Dr Jean Twenge, a psychologist.
HELP TEENS UNDERSTAND HOW SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECTS THEIR BRAINS
The human brain develops from the back to the front, explained Dr Frances Jensen, chair of the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.
The middle part, which she describes as the “social brain,” is “actively constructing itself during adolescence” — and is the most susceptible to outside influences. Dr Jensen urged parents to talk to their kids about brain changes and how they make them vulnerable to some of the more negative effects of social media.
ASK YOUR TEEN KEY QUESTIONS
1) “Do you feel like you have control over social media, or do you feel like it’s controlling you?” That question is particularly effective at gauging whether a teen’s social media use has become problematic.
2) “Are any of these accounts making me feel worse about myself or about my body?”
LEAD CONVERSATIONS WITH CURIOSITY, NOT JUDGMENT
It’s important for parents to foster an open dialogue around social media. Tell your kids clearly that you’re asking questions because you’re curious about this aspect of their life, not because they’re in trouble.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.