There are good things about social media. And bad.
It’s the over utilization of it that is the problem for kids. And parents are having a hard time getting a handle on it.
Kids who suffer from mental illness are at risk for reacting to the bullying, exclusion and fictitious perfectionism and altered reality of social media in a negative way including suicide. Here are things you need to keep in mind as a parent.
1. Social media is an algorithm-based feed
Say what? Just so you know, an algorithm is simply a math equation fed to the social media engine. That means people are often not exposed to other opinions because you are grouped based on your interests. The “feeds” show you things it thinks will engage you. The person with whom you most recently engaged with will be at the top in addition to family members Facebook has linked to your profile.
It’s not based on timing of the posts. So it’s not a timeline. It also means your children’s social posts didn’t get many likes because it may not have been seen by family and friends based on how much precedence that social media platform gives that post on a given day for any multiple different criteria. And that changes constantly.
As a digital marketing expert, I know these things but they don’t know this. And if they are judging themselves based on the number of comments/likes they get, they might feel shunned when in fact, it just didn’t get much exposure that day due to the fact that is was a busy day on that social media platform and people can only see but so much activity.
It’s unhealthy not to see opposing views and learn to accept other opinions.
2. Set limits
Too much time on social media is linked with anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s important to establish healthy relationships with digital media starting at a young age by setting limits and sticking with them.
Their devices are their connection to the social media landscape and if you do not set limits, they will be hit with it like a tsunami. It’s too much exposure for them at an age when they cannot handle it. And you can’t keep up with it.
Don’t just hand over a smartphone with a bow. The phone, computer or any other device that can access the internet should not be in their rooms at night. Because that’s when sleeping should be happening. It should not be a 24/7 relationship because kids get addicted to their devices. That ding of the text message is like a reward system that trains people to react. “Someone needs me!”
The trick is to start young. If they are teased about it, have them blame lack of access on you. But better being teased at school than 24/7 on social media. An example would be family time at dinner, after 9pm etc. Consider having an “unplugged” night and do something with your children.
Recognize that this device and what it links your kids to is very addictive.
3. Do not allow children under 13 to have a social media account
Of any kind. They are not only very vulnerable at this age, it’s illegal. And you can say it’s illegal. If something happens to your child, you have no legal recourse if they are under 13. It’s also not good for developing brains and those establishing social skills to start so young with social media. (It is recommended that kids 18 months or less not be exposed to screens of any kind.)
Have conversations about it with your kids. Be frank on what your limits are. Setting boundaries is part of being a parent.
4. Model good behavior
They do what you do not what you say. And if you are always tied to a digital screen, they are likely to model that behavior. If your face is glowing when your kids are having a conversation with you, you are missing an opportunity to connect with your children. It might be time to explore your own relationship with digital media.
On the other hand, yelling or arguing about it is not healthy. Just state your reason. Remember you own the phone.
5. Keep the dialog open
Be transparent. They might not love your position but you are being frank and honest. I remember when I had a conversation about internet safety and set limits for my kids. For weeks after, Charles would come downstairs and act out all sorts of scenarios that I had mentioned.
For example, he told us that he was sending naked pictures to some guy he met on youtube because he said he was a doctor and I said only a doctor can ask to see him naked. He was being facetious and making fun of my conversation which I was fine with because it meant he heard it and listened.
I have to say the way he delivered this narrative had his older brother and myself laughing to the point of tears. God that child was so funny. No one could make me laugh that hard.
6.Help your kids find a purpose
This doesn’t mean cramming them in every sport or activity. Kids need downtime, too and having wall-to-wall schedules is overwhelming and in and of itself inspires anxiety. Helping them find a purpose might mean becoming engaged in the community yourself.
Kids who have found a purpose or a passion can get outside their own head and are less likely to become obsessed with social media and get sucked into the darker side of it because they have a new passion. A helper’s high is far healthier than a digital device addiction.
Family life should not be all about transporting from one activity to another constantly.
Social media can cause more isolation and it can facilitate more bonding. You can’t cut them off from technology completely or conversely allow them to have the keys to the castle. You have to find a balance.
There are a million other things I could say on this subject since I owned a digital marketing firm. But I’m going to leave it at this for now!