Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat — What You Need to Know About Social Media and Your Teen
It’s a topic we revisit here often because it’s a topic that’s ever-changing: digital media and your teen. How much is too much screen time? When is social media helpful? When is it harmful?
Every parent of a teen in America is asking these questions. And every parent is trying to keep up with social and digital media’s changing landscape. It seems that every year brings another app or social media site for your child to become obsessed with.
Last year, Tik Tok surpassed Facebook and Twitter as teens’ third top-visited media site behind Instagram and Snapchat. The video platform has taken teens by storm and during COVID-19 has become even more popular.
You might find your teen’s digital media use overwhelming. You can’t keep up with the latest apps and trends, so you’ve pulled back from monitoring this area of your child’s life altogether. Parents, please don’t do this.
One of the most important things you need to understand about social media and your teen is that you can parent your teen in this area of her life. In fact, you must. It is imperative that parents get over the fear of taking charge of their kids’ social media use. Many conscientious parents fear their children will miss out, hate them, rebel, feel like the odd kid in their class, etc., if you put limits on when and how they use digital devices, but none of this is a good reason to opt-out of taking control.
Social media has been linked to a number of problems in teens, namely anxiety, depression, obesity, and risky behavior. Your teen is not able to parent himself in this area. He will scroll through his phone all night if you don’t put boundaries on screen time and digital media use, so it up to you to ensure your child’s mental and physical well-being remain intact.
Focus on quantity and quality.
The most common question I hear from parents about social media is how much screen time is too much? At the very least, don’t allow your child to be on her phone during mealtimes or for one hour before bed. As far as the exact amount of time a teen can spend online each day—the answer is less clear cut.
Most recently, however, the AAP has determined it’s difficult to set general time limits for screen time considering how integrated our lives are with digital media. Instead, they suggest focusing on the quality of the media your child is consuming.
What apps does your child use? What websites does he regularly visit? If you don’t know, find out. Determine what apps, sites, and social media outlets are helpful for your child and which ones are hurtful. What mood is he in after being on social media versus watching a nature show or taking a virtual tour of a museum? How does your daughter talk about herself and her body image after being online for an afternoon versus reading a book for a few hours?
You will probably be able to notice what is helping your child online and what is hurting. Do what helps.