4 Healthy Social Media Habits for Teens (And 1 for You)
Highlights from this blog:
· Teach teens to curate their feed and help them set boundaries.
· Discourage teens from using social media as a coping mechanism.
· Model good social media behavior in your own life.
In my last post, I talked about the negative impact social media has on teens’ mental health. But I don't want you to lose hope. There is still so much you can do as a parent to build healthy social media habits. And in today’s post I’m going to show you how!
Here are healthy social media habits you can teach your teen right now (and 1 you can practice yourself).
1. Learn to talk openly about social media
By talking openly about social media in your household, you can create a safe space for teens to share their online struggles and celebrations.
This gives teens a sounding board and someone they can reach out to for a reality check when social media becomes too dramatic or stressful.
Start by asking what apps they're using. You might even consider signing up for those platforms yourself to learn more.
When talking about social media, remain calm, ask thoughtful questions, and try not to rush judgment or invalidate your child’s experiences.
Your teen needs to feel safe and supported when talking to you about social media. If you scare them off, they may try harder to conceal their online activities from you.
2. Don’t use social media as a coping mechanism
When life gets hard, teens often turn to their phones for comfort. In the short term, it may provide some relief, but in the end, it can deepen insecurities and feelings of isolation.
That’s because using social media is not a coping skill.
When your teen is feeling down, encourage them to exercise, meet up with friends, or express themselves creatively. These activities provide a healthy way for them to deal with negative emotions.
3. Curate your feed
Many of my young clients don't realize they can control what they see and hear online. We all have the power to curate our own feed.
Your teen can determine whether the accounts they follow are having a positive or negative effect by asking questions like:
· Does it make me feel bad about myself?
· Does it make me angry?
· Is it adding drama to my life?
· Am I comparing myself to this person?
If the answer is yes to any of these, it’s time to unfollow!
4. Set boundaries
While there is no exact formula for how much time teens should spend on social media, research shows that less is more.
A University of Pennsylvania study found that college students who used social media for only 30 minutes a day showed decreased signs of anxiety and depression.
One way to encourage healthy habits is to set boundaries in your home. Here are a few
· Set time limits
Don't give your teen 24/7 access to their phone. Take phones away at bedtime.
· Create no-phone zones
Create spaces in your house where phones are not allowed. The dining area and homework spaces are perfect places to start.
· Go high tech
Apps like Family Link can help you set time limits on teens’ devices. This can help if their social media use is becoming excessive or difficult to control.
5. Model good social media habits
This one is for you, parents. Your teens learn a lot from watching you. And
using social media (or screens in general) is no exception. Here are some healthy habits to practice in your own life:
· Resist the urge to check your phone: If you’re pulling out your phone every time you hear an alert, it’s going to be hard to teach your teen that they shouldn’t be doing the same thing.
· Limit your posts: If you’re snapping a pic of everything you eat, you may be teaching your teen to prioritize online experiences over real-life ones.
· Don't be dramatic: It’s easy to get carried away sometimes, which is why it’s so important to keep your posts drama-free.
I hope that by sharing these habits with your teen, you can turn social media into something that supports their mental health rather than harms it. By talking about it, reinforcing good copings skills, helping teens curate their feed, setting boundaries, and modelling good social media behavior yourself, you can help transform social media use into a positive, affirming experience.
Have you tried any of the strategies above? Let us know in the comments below.
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Christine Willing, M.Ed., NCSP, is the CEO & founder of Think Happy Live Healthy, a psychological therapy and wellness company in northern Virginia. As a Licensed School Psychologist, she helps kids and families navigate the stress of school with resiliency and positivity. When she’s not seeing patients, Christine enjoys life at the beach, listening to podcasts, and walking her adorable dog, Latte. Follow her on Instagram at thinkhappylivehealthy.