Setting healthy social media boundaries has become one of the growing concerns for parents in this day and age. And if you’ve recently seen The Social Dilemma, you might be feeling warier. The reality is that social media has its own pros and cons. Social media is designed to be addictive and their business model is to keep us engaged on screen. But it’s also designed for people to form connections.
There are two sides to a coin. And while you can’t control every experience your child has with social media, you can definitely ensure that they have healthy social media boundaries.
While parents can tell their children about the reality of social media addiction, that concept can be hard to understand as a teen. The best way to go about it is to communicate them with science and facts.
Pamela Kirpalani, a mother of two, shares, “One way I keep this awareness alive in my both my teen and pre-teen is by explaining how the brain works when it is exposed to social media. I’ve drawn a picture of the brain to show how dopamine levels are affected every time a ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ notification appears on their screens.”
“I also explain how gaming changes the brain chemistry in such a way that makes it highly addictive to technology. However, the idea is not to ‘demonise’ technology. There are still benefits to using social media – the idea is to use social media wisely and responsibly.”
There’s a reason why many apps and social media pages have a minimum age of 13 for access. By this age, their brains have typically matured enough and they can start to understand the consequences and risks of what happens online.
This one is more flexible and depends on how you and your family like to do it. But for them to develop a healthy relationship with social media and their devices, you can introduce the idea of a detox. Whether it’s a devices free dinner, no phones an hour before bed, or one day a month where no one checks their phone. Make it work for your family.
In 2018, there was a study that concluded 56 per cent of teens experienced loneliness and anxiety when they were separated from their phones. To combat this, it’s important to introduce the idea that taking regular breaks from your phone is completely okay. Doing it as a family will also help make it a fun activity where everyone can focus on doing another more hands-on task.
In this day and age, almost every interaction on social media is with a stranger. But it’s still important to have this conversation with your kids so they know not to engage with strangers online and provide them with any personal information or even meet them in person. As Kirpalani does with her children, “This is not a one-time conversation. Rather a regular check-in and a reminder of the rules of engagement when they’re on social media.”
Their online experiences are just as much a part of their reality and life as their offline interactions. Aside from asking about how things are at school, you can also catch up with more social-media focused questions. For example, you could ask what are some funny videos they’ve seen lately and what apps they like to use the most. From there on, questions like asking how they feel when they’re on it and if there are any people they’re particularly close with on the app can come more naturally.
Having healthy boundaries with social media will only be a stronger argument if they see you do it first. And just as you hope your kids would communicate honestly with you, you can do the same with them. Admit if you’re having trouble detaching from your phone, and managing your time on your devices. But be sure to stick by the boundaries you establish for them too. This way, you’ll be able to set a positive example of having healthy boundaries with social media.
Teen social media has been thought to be correlated with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and even affecting their self-esteem. Girls are usually more vulnerable to this and peer pressure can worsen over social media as well. Try checking in with your children on how they feel and on their mental health as well. Let them know that their interactions and experiences online can be openly shared with you.
Another way is to help your kids build healthy self-esteem through offline means. Whether it’s in sports, music, or another hobby that they’re interested in, it can give them the space to grow in their confidence and identity separate from social media.
The reality of social media has its own good and bad, and on the positive end, social media can bring about a sense of community and belonging. It can be a means of emotional expression, control, and even identity development. And it’s important for kids to see both sides of it too.
As Kirpalani shares, “Social media can be used as an opportunity for connection when it comes to bonding with your kids especially if it’s used to keep in touch with family and relatives who live overseas or aren’t able to travel to meet up in person.”