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We cannot stress enough in what ways technology has been fruitful to us. But, at the same time, we also cannot ignore the harmful impacts of technology on the younger generation. We are living in the age of social media where it’s almost impossible to keep our children off of it.
Children and social media have become inseparable now. They are spending more time on social media platforms than most adults. In fact, an article published in Washington Post referring to a report from Common Sense Media told us that teens spend around nine hours a day on the internet on average.
It’s true that the internet helps broaden our children’s knowledge as they can find information on several topics and at the same time, helps them indulge in fun activities such as watching their favourite movies, playing online games, and communicating with their friends on social media.
But we cannot neglect the bad side of the internet and social media. Spending about nine hours a day on social media can be extremely harmful to the kid’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Excessive use of social media can make them feel envious, left out, and cranky.
We, as parents, may equip ourselves to the world of social media and find out how to use these platforms effectively but sometimes we may also miss the mark when it comes to guiding our children on how to stay safe on social media platforms.
Ana Homayoun, the author of the book Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, said that most parents are having the wrong conversations with their kids around social media. They focus on fear and judgment by saying things to their kids such as ‘don’t do this because you will end up in trouble’ or ‘don’t do that otherwise you won’t get into college.’
Such statements will make our kids more confused and they will be left with no other option than to go underground and find some other means to keep their online interactions private.
The author also stressed the importance of focusing on healthy communication and social media safety. She said that instead of monitoring children round the clock, parents need to first have a conversation with them and help them make better choices in the first place.
Keeping your kids entirely off of social media may not be a practical solution. You need to help your kids find the right balance between the social media world and the real world. Let us talk about some ways parents can help their kids find the right balance between social media and real life.
Children and teens should know that their parents can ask for their cellphones at any point and can see what they have been doing with their devices lately. Parents should make it a point to explain to their children than they can access their cellphones whenever they want.
Also, it’s important to help children understand the difference between privacy and safety. Since most children do not like their parents invading their privacy and snooping their online activity, parents should tell their children what makes them monitor their online activity. Warn them about online dangers lurking on social media platforms and how they can stay away from them.
They should also check their phones to find out what sort of content their kids are putting out there. Apart from that, they should also check what they are receiving. If there’s something you don’t like, you should talk to your child about why you don’t like it and then ask for their opinion. Once they are able to talk freely about their opinions and thoughts, they can think things through and come up with their own set of values.
Parents need to be social media savvy if they want to help their children balance social media with the real world. If they have found their kid using a certain social media app, make it a point to join the same app.
Being on the same social media platform as your kid will allow your kid to come to you and talk about the issues they are facing on the platform. Imagine your kid facing some trouble on a social media app and then having no person to talk to. If you understand the social media app, they will be able to come to you and discuss their problems with you.
Parents can follow their children on social media and find out about their regular online activity. They can also follow their posts, especially the time at which they have uploaded a certain post. If they find their children putting up posts or stories on Instagram late at night or be online on Facebook Messenger, they will instantly know that their child is awake.
A recent study on the BBC suggested that constant use of social media is disrupting teen sleep and exercise. So, if parents find their children using social media instead of sleeping, they can intervene at the right time and help them develop a better routine.
Before parents hand over a cellphone to their kids or allow them to download a trending social media app, they should set some clear ground rules and boundaries regarding social media usage and talk to their kids about them.
If they hand over the devices before addressing the rules and expectations for using them, they wouldn’t know which rules and restrictions they need to follow. Therefore, parents need to clearly state the rules and restrictions for using social media, and stick with them as much as possible.
For instance, children should always seek permission from their parents before putting up anything online, get approval before downloading a new app on their device, and letting parents check on their phones before bedtime.
Children do things that they see their parents are doing. They pick up from their routines and then adapt the same things into their lifestyles. They learn from them, both good and bad. Therefore, parents need to become a good digital role model for their children.
They shouldn’t use cellphones during meals. If they do, chances are their children will also do the same. On the other hand, parents should not use the internet late at night. When children realize their parents are using the internet during bedtime, they will tend to do the same.
Also, refrain from posting everything about your personal life on the internet. A new concept known as sharenting, as explained in a Forbes article, has emerged which depicts that parents are sharing their kid’s photos and their details on social media without realizing the consequences.
If parents are sharing everything on the internet, children will also follow the same pattern. Therefore, parents need to be extremely careful about what they are posting online because every single move they take is going to influence their children.
As explained thoughtfully well in a blog published by WebMD, parents need to help their children focus on balance. They need to make sure their children are also engaging in social interactions in the real world. Some parents also turn off their kids’ cell phone notifications so they cannot be distracted by them while they’re doing some other activity offline.
Parents can also spend time with them online and do activities together. This is how they can help their kids find the right balance between social media and the real world.