Limit or Permit?: A Parents’ Guide for Monitoring Social Media

The existence of the Internet has only complicated things.

As Internet usage continues to prevail in our everyday lives, every parent struggles to determine what is appropriate for their kids. Many question when to give their kids privacy and when to intervene. It’s impossible to predict when social media use is going to be helpful or harmful. Having a conversation with your kids about online safety rules is a crucial step.  This will help your kids grow up using social media wisely. This post is intended to act as a guideline for parents who share some of these questions about when to limit or permit their kids’ online activity. 

What is “healthy” Internet/social media use?

There are a few questions parents can ask themselves to gauge whether their child has an unhealthy relationship with their online activity:

  • Does my kid lie about device use or use it in secret?
    • Perhaps your child is unwilling to follow strict household rules about device use, but they would be willing to agree to less rigid ones.  
  • Are they isolating themselves from people or activities they used to enjoy?
    • Real-life pleasures and friendships may become neglected or lose their authenticity if too much time is spent online. 
  • Do they frequently get frustrated or upset from being online?
    • Kids might become heavily focused on their online persona or negative interactions with others online.
  • Do they compare themselves to others in a negative way?
    • Heavy social media use can lead to unrealistic expectations and decreased self-esteem. 
  • Does my kid use more than 7 social media platforms?
    • A study found that these individuals are at 3x the risk of depression than those who use 2 or fewer sites. 
  • Does their device use negatively affect sleep?
    • Studies show that excessive social media use is linked to sleep disturbances, fatigue, and decreased physical health.  

Any “yes” answers indicate that a conversation about online behavior would be beneficial. It’s a good way to improve your own understanding about why your kid uses social media platforms. The next step would include discussing how your child interacts with the Internet so they can improve their relationship with it. 

What can you do to encourage your kids to have a healthy relationship with social media?

  • Create a social media plan that sets limits on screen time and app use. If your plan involves monitoring their online activity, have an honest conversation with them about it. Another rule can be that your child must ask permission before they download an app or make a new account. Review the security settings with them and educate them on how to maintain their privacy. 
  • Model the behavior you want your kids to exhibit by limiting your own social media use. Prioritize face-to-face social interactions. If you’re spending time with your kids and encouraging them to hang out with friends, they may be more willing to put down their iPads! 
  • Avoid banning social media completely, which may alienate your kids from their peers and foster distrust in your relationship. Teens especially may spend a lot of time interacting with their real-life friends online. Taking that away entirely can do a lot of damage. 

The takeaway:

As with any parenting advice, use this information for your own benefit and modify your own household rules as you see fit. There are many factors that play a role in what is appropriate for your child.  Their age, maturity level, and their relationship and level of honesty with you are important factors.

Younger kids may need stricter supervision and parental settings on their devices. Older teens should have some degree of privacy in addition to an understanding about ways to be safe and smart online.

Additionally, older teens tend to use different platforms than younger kids. Having an awareness about which platforms are used for different activities can help you understand what they are getting out of those apps.  It can also determine whether they are sending pictures to close friends on Snapchat or talking to other gamers through Twitch.

Keep in mind that any online activities can be done in a healthy way, just as much as they can be unhealthy or even dangerous. Having open and honest discussions about how to be safe on the Internet from the get-go is key in encouraging lifelong healthy Internet use.

For help with this or any other concerns you may have, email or call us at (217) 203-2008 to schedule an appointment.

Resources:

https://connect.uclahealth.org/2018/08/01/healthy-social-media-use-for-children-and-teens/

https://www.familyeducation.com/mobile-apps/a-complete-guide-to-potentially-dangerous-apps-all-parents-should-be-aware-of

https://www.verywellfamily.com/ways-social-media-affects-teen-mental-health-4144769

https://www.consumernotice.org/data-protection/internet-safety-for-kids/