Category: Social Media Safety

Young People and a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Young People Healthy Relationship with Social Media

For those of us raised in the landline generation, social media can feel like terrifying new terrain. No sooner did we get our heads around Facebook, than it was deemed uncool by the younger generation, who quickly moved onto Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. It’s tempting to embrace being a ‘tech dinosaur’ and scoff at the latest craze, but as parents this is a risky strategy.

Our children’s lives are moving more and more online, into a rapidly changing, unmarshalled digital world. It’s essential we understand how they’re using social platforms, to keep them safe and to support their mental health. So, here’s 5 top tips to engage with our children’s virtual world and help them form a healthy relationship with social media.

1. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries sounds obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Particularly in the last year, allowing our children to get lost in their screens has been an easy way to give us much-needed respite. However, we know that too much screen time is detrimental to our children’s mental health and can affect their sleep, so it’s essential that we’re helping them to strike a healthy balance.

There’s lots of great advice out there about how to enforce time limits and set parental controls, but this will always work better if it’s done in collaboration with your child. Ask them how much time they think is appropriate and you may be surprised by how reasonable their response is.

It’s also useful to think about how and when they’re using their devices. Last thing at night can affect their sleep and first thing in the morning can risk them becoming addicted, needing their ‘fix’ the minute they wake up. Similarly, playing on Minecraft will have a very different emotional impact to scrolling through ‘beach body’ images on Instagram. Sometimes setting boundaries can be as simple as telling them to change what app they’re on, to give them a mental health break.

2. Educate them about staying safe

Again, this one can feel tricky when it’s our children who are the digital natives, while we feel more like anxious tourists. However, on a neurological level, children and young people haven’t developed the ability to gauge and assess risk accurately, so they need us to support them with this. As the digital world is moving fast, it’s impossible to keep on top of all the new platforms and associated risks, so educating our children on understanding the dangers is our best hope.

Letting them know the importance of protecting their personal information is essential, spelling out just how easy it is to give details away without realizing we’ve done it. Also, let them know how disinhibited we can become when we’re online. This is particularly pertinent when we look at cyberbullying. It may be that they fall victim to bullying and need our support, but it’s also incredibly easy for children to fall into the trap of bullying others, without even recognizing that that’s what they’re doing.

3. Take an interest

We’re often quick to judge what’s a valuable use of our children’s time and what’s a waste. Maybe we give them our full attention when they let us know about how they got on in their football match or if they’ve had a fall out in the playground, but when they start telling us about what they’re up to online, we immediately glaze over.

While we may find it hard to enthuse about social platforms, we still want our children to come to us about them. Our children may have whole friendship groups, hobbies and an entirely different persona online that we need to know about. So have a strong coffee, take a deep breath and try to act interested as they talk about this aspect of their lives. By being curious and asking questions we’ll be better informed and we’ll become closer to our children too.

4. Don’t demonize social media

Similarly, it can be tempting to make dismissive comments when our children talk about their social media use. ‘What are you on that for? Get outside in the fresh air and spend time with your real friends!’ may be on the tip of our tongues, particularly if we’ve read up on all the negative aspects of social media, but all we’re doing is telling our children not to talk to us about their online lives – and that’s a dangerous message.

There’s lots of positives to social media. For children struggling with their mental health, they can find others in a similar situation and draw strength from them, and in the various lockdowns, social media did a lot to stave off the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many young people felt. Find out how your child is using social media and if it does seem to be impacting negatively on their mental health, help them to find more positive ways of using it.

5. Encourage real life connections

Finally, as with most things, it’s about balance. It’s okay for children to use social media but it’s important that they have other sides to their life as well. If they have a club or hobby that they enjoy, encourage them to keep it up. If it looks like they’re losing interest, have an honest conversation with them and agree together what they can do to maintain connections with the real world.

Encouraging our children to have their friends over is another way to maintain those real world relationships, as is making sure we’re spending quality time with them too. Days out, walking the dog, baking or getting creative together are all good ways to bring us closer to our children and are also a great way to engineer conversations about how things are going in their online world.

We don’t have to ‘lose’ our children to social media. By being open and interested in what they’re telling us, without overreacting or jumping to conclusions, they’ll know that they can come to us if they have a problem. By doing this we’re also modelling communication, compassion and problem-solving skills which are all cornerstones of healthy relationships. If they’re experiencing these in the real world, they’re much more likely to apply them to their virtual lives too.

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Social Media for KidsHelen has nearly 20 years’ experience working with children and young people.  As a primary school teacher and child and adolescent counselor she is passionate about understanding and supporting children. Helen is head of counseling at Mable Therapy, a company transforming the way children and young people across the UK access therapy. By replacing traditional therapy methods with immersive, game-based therapy and technology, the process of achieving goals becomes fun and rewarding.

Media Mindfulness: Keeping Your Child Safe In The Digital World

Social Media Mindfulness

Social media has been known as somewhat of a dangerous place for children.  It can pose risks such as exposure to inappropriate or upsetting content, a lack of responsibility for actions, and of course, cyberbullying. That being said, social media is also a place for children to learn lessons.

It’s a space that is welcoming of creative expression, new connections, and heightened awareness. So when it comes to protecting our children from the dangers of the internet, banning them from social media is not only an unrealistic but an unnecessary way to tackle these dangers.

Here are some tips to help keep your children safe in the digital world.

Media Mindfulness Tips

Lead By Example

Probably the easiest way to encourage mindful social media use with your kids is by demonstrating the behavior yourself. This means reassessing your own experiences with social media and the ways it has impacted your daily life. For most adults, this comes down to turning off and tuning in.

I’m sure you’ve seen a family out to dinner with all of their faces in their phones. Well, I can almost guarantee you that the parents started that habit. By not putting away their phone for dinner, the parents are sending the message that it’s okay to spend family time browsing the internet.

Try leaving your phone home, or in another room during family time. This will demonstrate to your child that there is a time and place for technology.

Consider Your Intention

One of the most powerful ways to help your child have a better experience with social media is by teaching them the importance of intention. For most people, scrolling through Instagram or TikTok is nothing more than a cure for boredom.

As we already discussed, there is a lot to be learned from social media. INstruct your child to consider what their intentions are before opening the app.

They may tell you that they wanted an update on their favorite singer, or that they heard of a new toy they want to research. In most cases, however, they are likely to tell you that they’re bored.

In this case, remind them that if they can’t think of a reason for scrolling, it’s better not to do so at all.

Create A Positive Feed

One nice thing about social media is that, to a certain extent, you get to decide what you want to see. Thus, the easiest ways to create a more mindful media environment is by going through your feed and removing all negativity.

If your child is young, take a moment to sit with them and assess who they follow. By looking through who you follow and considering their purpose, you will be able to create a feed that makes you feel good.

If an account isn’t sharing positive energy or information, it’s time to hit the unfollow button. Replace them with more mindful, thought-out accounts that promote positivity and motivation.

When It’s Time To Turn Off

Keeping all of these things in mind while on social media is a great way to boost your online mindfulness.  Possibly the greatest thing about these apps, however, is that when the stresses become too much, we can always turn it off and take a break.

This doesn’t have to mean any specific amount of time. Make sure your child knows that it is always okay to turn the phone; whether it be for a few moments to practice conscious breathing, or a whole day to hang out in nature.

It may surprise you how quickly what’s happening on the internet starts to flee your mind.

About the Author:
“Rita Thompson is a writer for The Joy Within, an online school for meditation, happiness, and personal empowerment. As a writer, Rita strives to help shed light on under explored topics to help others flourish and access their fullest potential. Learn more at thejoywithin.org or on Instagram @the_joy_within.”

Social Media Safety Tips Are Not only for Kids

Kids sometimes feel insulted or frustrated when always warned by adults about the dangers of social media. They shouldn’t be. Just because someone has more life experience and education doesn’t mean they won’t make stupid mistakes on social media.

The Internet is full of frightening and sometimes laughable stories about adults who should know better getting in serious trouble over social media activity.

Young adults with high enough marks to apply for college will probably find that their social media history could prevent them from higher education. Admissions officers at universities and colleges commonly read a candidate’s Facebook page before deciding to accept his or her application.

Some goes as far as to search for candidate’s who have been tagged by friends to see pictures of that candidate’s behavior.

Rude and mean behavior isn’t all that recruiters look for; some potential students have lost athletic scholarships valuing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because they posted pictures of injuries which scared off sports recruiters.

The scrutiny continues when adults apply for work. An on-line site published by Time Magazine reported that 93% of businesses check out an applicant’s tweets and posts before offering the person a job. Any behavior that reflects poorly on a company will tend to have a resume tossed to the side.

Even adult with good, solid jobs have to be careful on-line. People have lost their jobs because bosses saw posts critical to the business. Workers have been fired or reprimanded when bosses spotted posts that were made during work hours or found tweets where employees complained about their jobs in off-work hours.

Privacy settings don’t keep adults safe, either. Friends can like a post or re-tweet a few words that can easily be found by others.

You don’t even have to post words or pictures for social media to get into trouble.

In 2015, an Australian woman had a real-life dispute with a co-worker in her office. She later went home and unfriended the co-worker. A job-place tribunal found the woman guilty of cyberbullying—all because she hit the unfriend button.

Adults are absolutely correct when they lecture kids about being smart with social media. With more experience in dealing with life and the world, adults have a better grasp of dangers that lurk on-line. Yet all that experience and knowledge can’t prevent adults from getting into trouble with posts and tweets.

Regardless of age or education, anyone can get into trouble or be personally damaged by a simple slip on social media.

Life of a 13 Year Old Girl in the Social Media Jungle

When Friends are Upset on Social Media

Jill knows that Ringo — her fluffy spotted puppy — can understand her. Whenever she’s on her phone, Ringo sits politely at her feet and stares at her with round, brown eyes. Today, Jill read her social media posts to him. “Look,” she said, “Zazza is mad at Sam because he got into the school band and she didn’t”.

Jill continued. “Zazza said Sam got in because he gave the teacher a flower before auditions. They’re both my friends and I don’t know what to say.”

Ringo cocked his head and sniffed at the phone.

Jill sighed. “I know what you mean, Ringo. They’re both my friends. If I post something that makes Zazza feel good, it will make Sam mad. If I post something that makes Sam happy, Zazza will be upset. What should I do?”

Ringo flattened on the floor and covered his ears with his fuzzy white paws.

Jill crossed her arms.  “You really think I should just stay out of it?”

Ringo sat up and panted.

“You’re right. Zazza is hurt right now, but she does so much, she’ll forget about it in a few days. Maybe I should wait ‘til I see her in person and tell her I’m sorry she didn’t get on the band.”

Ringo’s tail started sweeping the floor.

“You like that idea? That way, Zazza will l know I care and I won’t make Sam mad. After all, he’s my friend, too.”

Ringo let his long tongue flop out of the side of his mouth. Then he gave a deep, strong, “Woof.”

Jill nodded. “You’re smart. If I post something online, it will look like I’m taking sides between two people I like. If I talk to them in person, I’ll be a real friend instead of just someone who on comments online.”

Ringo panted happily. He liked people when they talked to each other in person. Being a dog, he knew that real friends share real time in the real world.

Online friends can’t throw sticks for you. They can’t sneak you a pizza crust when parents aren’t looking. Online friends can’t scratch your ears or take you for a walk. They can’t hug you or fill your water bowl. That’s why Ringo knows that what happens online is only part of being a friend. Being a real friend means being supportive in the real world and being kind in the real world.

Jill got off social media and phoned Sam. She congratulated him for getting on the band. Then she called Zazza and invited her over for pizza night.

That’s when Jill’s phone beeped. She looked at the message. “This is your Mom. Didn’t you forget something else in the real world?”

Jill smiled and tossed down her phone. “Hey, Mom,” she yelled into the kitchen. “Is it okay if Zazza comes over for pizza?”