1/11/23 blog post
how to talk to kids about social media
Let’s face it, as much as we might want to keep our kids away from social media forever, that’s probably not realistic. The good news is that social media isn’t all bad (or all good) for children’s mental health.
Benefits of Social Media
Social media helps tweens and teens make connections with others who may have similar interests. This can allow them to learn about forming relationships and how they feel about themselves. And building connections and self-esteem are good for mental health.
Some other potential benefits include:
- Building relationships – Digital communication is preferred by many teens for its ease of use. But did you know that social media can strengthen in-person friendships? Kids can connect with others over common interests and may share in a deeper way.
- Exploring identity – Social media allows teens to “try on” different things they like or value as they determine how they want to express themselves.
- Discovering creativity – Whether it’s videos on crafting, a new language or video game hacks, social media can give tweens and teens ways to learn about others and explore interests.
- Finding a group – Social media allows children to find others who are like them, which can be helpful if a child doesn’t have others around them with shared interests and backgrounds. Finding others who look like them or who share similar mental health or physical challenges can provide welcome support.
Risks of Social Media
Depending on the child, social media use can increase anxiety and depression, disrupt healthy brain development and potentially encourage kids to share too much, expose them to hurtful speech or bullying.
Some common risks include:
- Preoccupation with appearance – Because so much of social media is visual, it can encourage kids to focus too much on looks and the feedback that certain looks get.
- Staying power of posts – Kids may not understand that what happens on social media never really goes away, even if deleted. That can mean that mistakes can have a much longer impact.
- Advertising messages – Marketers are reaching kids through social media. It’s not always obvious what posts are sponsored or who is behind certain ads. This can create feelings of envy or a misunderstanding of common lifestyles.
- Fears of missing out (FOMO) – Seeing friends at a party or sharing fun that they aren’t a part of can negatively impact mental health.
- Brain health – Because social media is designed to constantly reward interaction, brains that are still developing are at risk of changing the brain’s reward center.
Social media can affect some children’s mental health more than others. If you have a child with a mental health diagnosis, you may want to be even more cautious as you introduce social media to them. You can get started by learning more about how social media impacts kids with a mental health diagnosis.
Having a Conversation
Now that you know the risks and benefits of social media, you’re ready to talk with your child about it. If they’re already on social media, ask to sit and watch them as they interact with their favorite app. If they’re not on social media yet, you can still talk about it by discussing some of the apps you use and asking about what they’ve seen their friends doing.
You may want to ask things like:
- What’s your favorite thing about this app?
- How do you feel when you’re doing this?
- What have you seen that’s made you feel uncomfortable?
You’ll want to plan how you can respond in a neutral way to your child’s answers, even if they’re concerning. You want to keep the conversation going and that means communicating openness, even with your body language.
create a plan for social media with your family
Whether your child has started exploring social media or not, your family can work together to come up with a plan that everyone can agree on.
Using social media responsibly doesn't just happen easily, it requires regular conversation and even routine updates!
If you don't know where to start, we have created an easy-to-use template to help make a social media plan that works for all!
Download it here.
It's also available to download in Spanish.
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