You’ve probably seen dozens of stories over the last decade, particularly in the last three years, about social media and its impact on our kids. While it can serve as a positive outlet and way to connect for some kids, others find themselves bullied and triggered because of their participation in various platforms. As a parent, you should help your kids learn best online behaviors and be on the lookout for changes in your kids that could be linked to social media activity.
(1) Set the example. When you are physically in the same room with your children, check your own activities. If your head is buried in Facebook reading Aunt Sally’s latest rant or looking at Julie’s trip to Cabo instead of listening to your child talk about their school day or friend feud, what kind of outcome do you expect? Giving your kids your undivided attention (it’s tough sometimes, we know) and showing them that life doesn’t revolve around the phone can set a good example.
(2) Remind them to be kind. It’s easy to say mean things or be disrespectful when you’re hiding behind a screen. Remind your kids that they are talking to a real person when they are posting online. Another point to drive home is that their teachers or grandparents (or you!) could see what they post. If they think it would embarrass their grandparent, hopefully, they will think twice before posting something mean about someone else.
(3) Watch for low self-esteem or loss of interest in hobbies. A telltale sign of worrying behavior is loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, regular grooming or slipping grades. Those almost always point to signs of anxiety or depression that in 2022, could easily be linked to social media interactions or even cyberbullying. Encourage your kids not to place as much emphasis on likes, shares and comments, and to value good grades and other achievements in sports or clubs that they previously enjoyed.
(4) Delay social media use as long as possible. The Child Mind Institute recommends that you wait as long as possible before allowing kids access to a smartphone and/or social media platforms. Set boundaries as far as what and when they can post early to instill good behaviors that will become second nature. And don’t forget, you’re the parent! You are likely paying for the phone, computer, Wi-Fi, etc. You can set limits and even sign contracts with your kids about their online behavior and the consequences of not following the agreed-upon rules.
If you think your kids need help, consult with your child’s pediatrician for a mental health referral. If you believe your child is experiencing a crisis, seek help immediately.
For help for children and youth up to age 18, call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Hotline:
Crisis TextLine – Text “TN” to 741741
If you are located in another state outside of Tennessee, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK or (1-800-273-8255)
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.