Social media presents young people with a range of learning and interpersonal opportunities, but it is also riddled with risks. These risks include social media addiction, being contacted by strangers, cyberbullying, body image issues, low self-esteem, and exacerbation of underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, the world of social networking is not all doom and gloom; by developing healthy social media habits, teens can benefit from social media without necessarily being at risk.
Teaching Your Teen Healthy Social Media Habits
So many aspects of life entail some degree of risk, and it’s simply not possible to entirely risk-proof a child. The best any parent can hope to do is to prepare their children for the possibility that they will have an upsetting experience or interaction online. This entails teaching young people healthy social media habits and techniques for minimising the potential for harm, and also providing them with the skills and tools to effectively manage situations if they are to arise.
To help your teen develop healthy social media habits, you should teach them to:
Be critical of what they see: not everything online reflects reality, and when we feel the pressure to compete with someone else’s highlight reels it can make us feel bad about our own lives, which are sometimes messy and complicated.
Recognise their own patterns of behaviour: we’ve all felt our eyelids drooping, but fought the urge to sleep in favour of more scrolling. When we practice awareness we can start to be conscientious of our social media habits and work towards achieving a balance. Try and encourage your teen to recognise when their interactions with social media are having a negative impact on their happiness or wellbeing. Ask them questions like, ‘do you ever feel like you’re too distracted by social media to focus on other tasks?’ or ‘does following this celebrity on Instagram make you feel better or worse about yourself?’
Think twice before sharing certain information. Encourage your teen to ask themselves the following question before they post something onto social media: ‘is there any information contained in this post that is unsafe or unwise to share on social media?’
Only accept friend requests from people they know.
Use privacy settings so that their personal information cannot be seen, captured, or shared by strangers.
Healthy habits aren’t always easy to uphold. Sometimes it can be challenging to meet the challenges we set ourselves, such as eating healthily or exercising regularly. The same is true for having healthy social media habits. The most important thing to do with your teen is model and reinforce the right behaviour so that they take those values with them into the online world.
References & More Information On Healthy Social Media Habits
Raising Children Network, 2018. Social media for children and teenagers
Common Sense Media, 2017. Be a Role Model: Find a Healthy Balance with Media and Technology.