Today, most kids have their own smartphones from a very young age. As a parent, it can be extremely frustrating trying to convince your kids to take their eyes away from the screen and to go get some fresh air. It can be especially difficult once they start using social media, as these sites can be extremely absorbing and potentially harmful, should cyberbullying, self-comparison, and other issues come into play.
Because of this, it makes sense to try to limit and monitor how much time your child spends staring at screens, especially when social media is involved. This isn’t easy, and if it’s approached in the wrong way, it’s easy to make kids feel resentful instead of happier and more engaged. However, there’s a way to go about it without ruffling their feathers – or yours, for that matter.
Why You Need to Convince Your Kids to Step Away from the Screen
Nearly 70% of afdults have a social media account. Now that these platforms have been around for several years, social media consumption is something that starts at a young age. It’s part of their social life from the beginning and it’s not always easy to convince your kids to separate themselves from the internet.
While social media sites might seem harmless enough, using them can be harmful to a person’s mental health and well-being, especially for young people who are still shaping their worldview, identity, and coping skills.
Excessive social media use can make kids feel isolated by replacing other forms of interaction and can make self-esteem issues worse by creating unhealthy comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Additionally, screen time reduces the amount of time playing outside and spending time with the family.
The Predicament Isn’t as Straightforward as It Seems
While there is a link to social isolation and other mental health issues from social media usage, especially when factors like cyberbullying or inappropriate relationships exist, the solution isn’t as simple as just taking away the phone and being done with it.
Screens alone don’t cause mental and emotional health problems. There are so many factors that go into kids’ and teens’ happiness, wellness, and self-esteem, and device usage typically won’t create problems that aren’t already there. Still, screen time and social media usage can make existing problems worse or open up opportunities for harmful interactions.
In addition to these complexities, just simply taking devices away from kids to solve the problem can cause even more issues. Kids can become resentful, and may feel like they don’t fit in with their peers because they aren’t allowed to have a phone. As a parent, striking the right balance can be difficult—you need to be firm, but you don’t want to be perceived as lame because that shuts down communication.
Kids and Anxiety and Depression
Mental health is an important issue in people of all ages. Physicians diagnose nearly 4.4 million kids between the ages of 3 and 17 with depression. Kids and teens have their own worries and sources of stress, which contribute to mental health disorders.
Parents don’t like to think that their children are suffering, and may not recognize the signs and symptoms of issues like anxiety and depression. But the truth is that kids live stressful lives, and everything from academic responsibilities to their social media interactions can have an impact on their well-being.
Kids need to have enough time to get adequate sleep, enjoy active play, and spend time with family on a regular basis. Exercise, family activities, and tasks that boost their self-confidence all help build happy, healthy kids. It’s important for parents to learn more about the signs of anxiety and depression so they can seek help if necessary.
So how can you reduce the amount of time your kids spend on social media and keep them away from its most harmful effects? The first piece of the puzzle is to protect family time and sleep. You don’t need to take the phone away entirely, but making space for interacting with the family and getting enough sleep is key.
Second, you may need to consider parental controls. You can’t watch your kids at all times, and parental controls make it easier for kids to feel like they’re in charge of their own activities while ensuring that they can’t access inappropriate content. There are lots of different controls available, so you can pick and choose what works for your family.
Finally, it’s important to be a good role model and to mentor your children. Really learn about what they’re doing online. Find out more about the games they’re playing and the videos they’re watching so you can discuss what’s important to them and affecting their lives.
And finally, put your own device down! You need to lead by example.