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Help Your Teen Develop Healthy Social Media Habits

Do you worry that social media is harming your child’s well-being?

You are not alone.

Half of all parents say they are concerned about social media’s influence on their child’s development, and with good reason. Research suggests that some adolescents use of online networking platforms can contribute to depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, and stress—especially in younger teens.

Parenting in the age of social media can be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

You can help your child navigate social media in a way that helps them hone their decision-making skills and enhances their well-being. Just like the physical world, the online world is vast and contains both good and bad. Developing healthy habits is how we learn to steer through even the most troubling of waters.

Social media is an inescapable fact of life.

Like it or not, being online is a significant part of a teenager’s daily life. In fact, research found that 45 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds are online constantly and that 97 percent are on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

What can you do?

The goal is to help your teen use social media in a healthy way: mindful of how it makes them feel, self-regulating the amount of time they spend online, and using social media to reinforce positive socialization.

The first step in developing healthy behaviors begins with conversation and collaboration.

1. Be Mindful: An important part of adolescence is learning how to build healthy relationships and social media can be a testing ground. Discuss how they will respond to others, what is and isn’t appropriate to post, and what values they want their behavior to convey.

2. Learn to Self-Regulate: The goal of many platforms is to keep you online. However, too much screen time and mindless scrolling can disrupt sleep and distract from offline socialization. Some studies have shown that more than three hours a day and frequent checking of social feeds is detrimental to mental health. Agree to time and frequency limits.

3. Prepare Coping Strategies: Difficult events, topics, and unsavory characters are bound to crop up with exposure to the world, whether digital or physical. Discuss the pros and cons of social media, including coping with likes and dislikes, how photo filters can distort reality, and how to avoid bad actors through privacy settings and who you follow.

4. Be a Support: A core principle of parenting is to support a child’s healthy development into adulthood. Monitor your child’s social presence as an observer. Ask how certain things make them feel. They can choose to opt in to content that is energizing and opt out of content that is draining—a good lesson in self-care.

The world of social media, like the physical world, can be a positive place to learn, socialize and build healthy habits that will serve a lifetime of wellness.

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