The Social Media Battle: Examining Its Impact and Helping Our Youth Use Responsibly
By Brandy Browne
There is no denying that online platforms have boomed in recent years. In fact, The Mayo Clinic (2022) reports that an estimated 45 per cent of teens ages 13-17 are online “almost constantly”, with social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Snapchat being the most popular.
Social media play a huge role in influencing our youth — both positively as well as negatively, regardless of whether we use it extensively or not.
For example, social media platforms are places where teens can connect with others, and in many cases, find valuable support systems that might be harder to find in person. Teens with chronic illnesses might find online support groups with other teens fighting the same battle. It is also home to a plethora of opportunities to connect with others with similar interests in hobbies, music, television, sports, etc.
On the flip side, it can be damaging at times. Teens often report that social media use is the reason for losing sleep at night and getting distracted from class, homework, or chores. The Mayo Clinic also reports that teens who spend more than three hours per day on social media may have a heightened risk of developing mental health problems.
The issue for teens (and let’s face it, adults as well) is that social media portrays a highlight reel for so many. It’s so easy to look at another person’s Facebook story and think they have it all together, but the reality is that we’re much more comfortable posting our joys for others to share than our sorrows.
5 Tips for Guiding Your Child’s Social Media Use
We want to ensure our youth use social media responsibly, as well as make sure it improves their lives, not makes them worse. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Start a conversation
Social media is a powerful tool, so you should make sure your teen knows how to use it responsibly. Set the expectation that it should not interfere with school or responsibilities. It’s also a good idea to set limits on social media use at night (i.e. no electronics after a certain time of the evening) in order to maintain good sleeping habits.
Monitor your teen’s social media accounts
This one is controversial. I want to give my eleven-year-old child some privacy, but as her parent, I have a responsibility to keep her safe. Keeping track of my child’s phone use is important to ensure that she’s interacting with others in a healthy and appropriate manner.
Be clear about what is not okay
Engage your teen directly regarding what isn’t okay when it comes to social media use. Make sure your teen knows it is not okay to gossip online or engage in bullying. Additionally, you should make sure your teen feels safe telling you about these things.
Encourage “offline” communication
Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to engage in face-to-face contact with their friends in the real world. This is a great way to balance out social media use, while also helping them build good communication skills, self-esteem and confidence.
Set a good example
We have a responsibility to teach our children how to use the internet in positive ways. That’s why it’s crucial to model appropriate social media use for children and teens. You might need to review your digital posting philosophy if you’d feel embarrassed if your child found your accounts.
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counselling student and blogger for The Lily Jo Project—her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a master’s degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counselling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.