Since Covid, most teens and young adults are in front of a screen more than they are in front of a friend or in nature. Devices are their source of entertainment, creativity, connection, and learning.
The negative impacts of screen time are undeniable. Too much can lead to sleep problems, learning problems, and even physical pain. Adding to that are the complications of social media. Constant scrolling, snapping, and double-checking likes, comments, and location can literally drive a teen toward obsession, depression, and anxiety. Despite the known side-effects, social media is only expanding and growing in popularity, so it is essential to understand the positive sides of social media and teach our youth how to use it for good.
What are the positive sides of social media?
Social media can foster meaningful connections. Teens have access to like-minded communities, groups and influencers that can provide helpful inspiration, information, and support. Social media is also an outlet for creative expression. Many teens share their art or videos on social media platforms. Social media can help teens stay informed because they have access to news and information. Today’s teens actually know more about global issues and what is happening in the world than ever before! Finally, social media is how teens make and stay in touch with friends. They are actually more likely to say that social media has a positive effect on how they feel and many report being less lonely, depressed, and anxious (Common Sense Media).
So how can you maximize the positives?
1. Model the behaviors you want to see.
- Take inventory of your social media use. What do you share? If you don’t want your teen to overshare, don’t do it yourself.
- When your teen talks with you, do you look at your phone or give her your full attention?
2. Designate face-to-face engagement time every day. This type of communication teaches teens the role of verbal and non-verbal cues, something that is essential for positive communication and relationships. And during this time, your phone goes away too.
3. Teach self-management and self-regulation.
- As much as possible get your teen involved in creating a screen-time contract. Decide together what those limits should be and make sure your teen honors the contract. During this conversation, make your “bottom lines” clear. Some to consider include-
-Phones are charged outside the bedroom.
-Phones are put away an hour before bedtime.
-Parents have all passwords and reserve the right to check the phone.
- Acknowledge when you see your teen emotionally affected by social media use. A simple, non-judgment comment like, “I notice you’re really down after spending time on social. Is that working for you?”
4. Build self-esteem and resilience. This is your teen’s shield against social pressure, cyberbullying, and losing touch with reality. Teens with high self-esteem are less likely to feel excluded or bad about themselves if no one comments or likes their posts. Self-esteem is also related to understanding personal values. When your teen knows what matters to her and why she is better able to make choices that are aligned with her values.
Build self-esteem and resilience by:
- Praising who she is and what makes her unique. Words of praise that go a long way with teens include “admire” and “respect.”
- Reminding her of the hard experiences she got through and what she learned as a result. Emphasize the message that she can do hard things!
- Ask your teen: What matters to you? Why?
- Ask your teen: What value is driving that decision or action?
5. Connect your teen with a trusted mentor, coach, or another safe person with whom to confide. A mentor or coach can help your teen build resilience, teach her how to self-regulate and manage social media in positive, constructive ways.