Being on social media can help your child stay in touch with friends and keep up with what's happening around them, but it can also easily lead to stress, and potentially exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or depression. Finding a balance and developing healthy habits for using social media is thus essential for making sure it has a positive presence in your child's life.
However, it is difficult to have hard and fast rules about technology and device usage because so much is dependent on the abilities and readiness of your child. Often, a child's judgement and maturity offline are good indicators of his capacity to manage himself online. For example, a child who struggles with making friends in real life is likely to zone out further on their smartphone to avoid interacting with others.
Here are a few simple ways to help your child develop healthy social media habit.
Set clear boundaries that you model
Clear boundaries may include: no smartphone usage during meal times and no smartphone in the room when it's bed time. As parents, we must also model healthy balance and demonstrate that we have the ability and desire to engage in activities without our smartphone nearby.
Maximise the good; minimise the bad
Whether social media has a positive or negative impact is determined by how your child uses the various platforms. There are of course valid concerns about the negative impact social media has on kids, such as bullying, shaming, spreading of fake news, etc. In order to make your child's social media use a positive force rather than a negative one, focus on the many benefits they are getting and guide them accordingly. The main benefits include: connecting with friends and family, learning from news, meeting others with the same interests and gathering information.
And how do you guide your child to maximise the good and minimise the bad? Most of the time, it's easy for parents to get caught up with how much time our children is spending on social media and what they are doing. Instead, you should talk to them about their feelings when they're using social media. Do they feel pressured to like something even if they don't want to? Do the updates make them feel insecure about their body or looks? Questions like these will help you gauge what kind of impact social media usage has on your child.
Respect their privacy (with exceptions)
As your kids get older, they will want more privacy for themselves. Especially for teenagers, their online presence is a space for them to explore their identities and develop autonomy. It is important that they feel free to do this. However, if you have concerns about their online safety or if you notice that your child is struggling with responsible social media usage, then all bets are off. A possible, but not fool-proof, solution is to agree on a trusted adult to follow your child on social media. It's not fool-proof because your child can modify the privacy settings to prevent the trusted adult from seeing the nefarious activities that they engage in.
If you want to know how you can monitor your children's phone usage and protect their privacy, check out our “FAQs about smartphone for kids“.
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