Let’s be real. Your kid is using her phone for more than just texting these days. 90% of the teens who I have worked with have had phones with internet access, thus access to endless social media sites and other apps for communicating with God knows who. In addition to the risk that meeting strangers online can pose, “Studies show that repeated exposure to negative postings can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of mental illness” (drjuliehanks.com). The truth is–and I am saying this from years of experience getting into this battle with teens–those who are suffering from a mental health diagnosis like anxiety or depression will be more sensitive to negative comments or images posted online. Teens, in general, tend to be more impressionable than adults and more likely to be affected when they feel judged by their peers. In developmental terms, this can be completely normal. BUT add adolescent plus mental health diagnosis or sensitive personality and this could equal a big problem. By no means am I bashing social media. Social media can be a great tool for keeping in touch, self-expression or delving deeper into hobbies or interests. I actually love social media but giving a child whose brain is not fully matured free reign and access to anything on the internet can be extremely dangerous and even addictive.
My experience as a therapist working with children and teens has taught me that limits have to be set.
- There should always be a cut off time for devices- 9pm, bedtime, whatever you choose- and parents keep the phone.
- There can be an agreement (for older teens) that parents will not read messages or go snooping.
- If there is a safety concern or there has been risky behavior online in the past- parents have a right to snoop or take away the device completely.
- Parents have access to passwords for ALL social media sites. Purely for safety.
- Remember parenting teens and tweens in this digital age can be extremely difficult. Ultimately it is up to you to find a system that works for you and your family.
Please post your comments about what is working for you!
For more info on the impact of technology on children check out this article from the Huffington Post article titled The Impact of Social Media On The Developing Child
Read more about the psychological impact of social media in this article by Dr. Julie Hanks