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How Parents Can Teach Their Teenagers How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Social media has now become a main factor in our lives and there is no going back. However, as technology and social media advance, the technology literacy divide between parents and their children continues to increase. Teenagers have very complex lives and now with social media, it has become even more difficult.


Even adults struggle to have the willpower to maintain their boundaries with social media use. Thus, it is important to cultivate a healthy relationship from the onset of use for children to continue to enforce those boundaries throughout their life.


While there are many benefits to social media in terms of interaction and access to information, there are also a lot of adverse effects to consider. These include:


- Poor self-esteem

- Cyberbullying

- Decreased academic performance

- Sleep disruption

- Anxiety

- Depression


A 2018 Pew Research Center study, found that “45% of teens say they’re online almost constantly”. Similarly, in 2019 the Cyber Bullying Research Centre found that 36.5% of children between the ages of 12-17 have been cyberbullied. This further reiterates the need for parents to teach and monitor their teen’s social media use.


But how can you do it? Here are some suggestions.


1. Have a Conversation Prior to Use


Before your child gets a smartphone or starts using social media you should have a conversation with them about how these apps work, the longevity of online posts, what is appropriate and inappropriate, as well as recognising signs of cyberbullying. This conversation should be open and constructive and not scare them. They should feel comfortable coming back to you to discuss any problems they encounter when they use the app. Think about things you wish you knew before using social media. What would you caution your younger self about before using any Social Media app?


2. Set Practical Limits


You should set practical limits for their social media and phone use. For example, there should be general rules for when they can and cannot use their phone. For example, they should not be using their phone when they are doing homework, when the family is having dinner and especially when they are going to bed. A general rule at night is that they charge their phones in a separate room.


3. Walk the Talk


As much as setting limits can be effective, you also need to be the model for the rules you are setting. If you are asking your children at any age to not use their phones while eating, speaking to family members or while trying to go to sleep. The best way to get them to do it is by showing them how. As the saying goes, show don’t tell.


4. Monitor Their Accounts

This is a practice that you should do if your preteens or young teens are now using social media. It can be beneficial to keep your eyes on their pages and monitor their use over time. Due to their young age, you should keep track of their use and interactions to ensure they are using the apps sensibly and having safe interactions.


5. Fill Their Lives with Other Things

Often, we speak about taking away phones from children, yet, it is equally important to replace that time with activities that bring them joy. You should still be pushing your children to join groups, taking lessons for music, dance, art etc and joining sports groups. Children should have activities where they can interact with kids their age and learn things offline. Understandably, this is difficult to do during lockdowns, however, doing online dance, art or music classes or even doing it yourselves at home, is still beneficial.

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