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With so many outlets to access social media and its ever-evolving demand for time and priority, how can a responsible caretaker promote a healthy balance in using it?

Teenagers and young adults have a crucial need for connection. In its genesis, the World Wide Web was meant to be just that – an interwoven web of peoples and groups for the purpose of connecting the world from near and far. From “the web” came several forms of social media – places where people could share and learn information, gather data, and spread news. The phone lines and radio broadcasts of the generation before morphed into tweets, posts, photos, and statuses to indicate the current social temperature. Who has been most impacted by it? Young people: the ones who are searching for identity and longing for connection. 

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Here are some tips to help facilitate using social media in moderation for adolescents and young adults: 

 

Talk about relevant content with them. 

It’s important for teens to feel “heard” and “accepted”. Social media is full of influencers who are speaking their language. Start a conversation about the content they find interesting, useful, or relevant to them. While it might not be interesting to everyone, it will open the door of communication and allow them to feel safe in talking about their interests. The added benefit of talking about these things is that you will now know what things capture their attention and you can manage a healthy approach to those things. This gives you, and not just the influencer, the opportunity to spend TIME with them. 

Initiate as many safeguards on their devices as possible. 

Take the time to sit down and have a discussion about how not everyone and everything on social media is there for their benefit. It’s a reality and even if that level of openness isn’t readily accepted, you will have kept the lines of communication open. It’s the responsibility of parents and guardians to truly guard the minds and hearts of their teens and children. Implement safety features against potentially threatening sites and potentially dangerous people and accounts. Reiterate that the reasons for the measures of safety are all to protect their safety and to show love and care for them as human beings. 

Limiting screen time and accessibility during certain periods of the day is another way to safeguard against overuse of social media.

Plan techno-free events and excursions. 

Planned or spontaneous activities where technology is discouraged can be a FUN experience – even for teens! Some ideas are: 

  • An in-home movie night with all of their favorite snacks and their pick of what will be showing. 
  • Outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, or boating can be a great time to focus on social-media-free fun. Encourage a photo or two throughout the excursion that they can post later to social media, if they would like to share.
  • A local or cultural experience that interests them. Something that coincides with an area they’re focusing on in school is a bonus! 
  • Youth events and activities with your local church or faith assembly. 
  • Chores and projects with some promised remuneration. i.e. – A payment towards something they’re saving for, ice cream with the family, a gift card to their favorite place. 

Just keep talking. 

The simplest way to encourage a healthy relationship between your adolescent and social media is just to stay involved in their life. Teens and young adults can feel shaky in their identity and that can cause different types of reactions to your involvement in their life. If you stay invested, and communicate with them through everything, it will be harder for them to doubt your commitment to their safety and success. When it’s easy and when it’s hard…just keep talking to them in whatever way they can understand. 

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The right balance with social media is sometimes an illusion, even with adults. The intent to stay connected and to do it in a healthy way should always be at the forefront. Parents of teens and young adults – you’re doing great! These unnavigated waters are only a season and you are the right person to guide them through it.