Tips for Parents on Teens & Social Media

Tips for Parents on Teens & Social Media

The Impact of Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health


When parents meet U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, one concern comes up time after time. “The most common question parents ask me is: ‘Is social media safe for my kids?’” Murthy said. “The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health.”

The potential pitfalls of social media for young people are vast. From cyberbullying and cyberstalking to anxiety, inappropriate content, social pressures, distraction from school, and body image issues, the negative impact of social media cannot be ignored. However, simply taking away our kids’ phones and computers is not the solution. Instead, it’s about guiding them in using and navigating these tools effectively.

So, how can parents help their teens ease the negative effects of social media? Here are some tips:

Set Rules

A federal law prohibits children under 13 from having social media accounts, and there’s ongoing discussion about extending the protection of kids’ information until they are 16. Therefore, it’s best to delay introducing social media to children for as long as possible, according to experts. Parents should have open conversations with their kids, review rules and privacy settings, and take the time to familiarize themselves with the sites and apps their children are using.

Monitor Your Kids’ Online Activity

Following or “friending” your kids on social media doesn’t mean you’re spying on them. It’s about letting them know that you are aware of what they’re up to and ensuring their safety. By monitoring their online activity, parents can stay updated on their children’s social media interactions and intervene if necessary.

Model the Right Behavior

“As parents, ultimately, you only have control over yourself,” said Sarah Voyer, lead social worker at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Being conscientious of your own behaviors, whether it’s related to phone usage, diet, or health, is a significant part of parenting. If you want your kids to have a healthy relationship with social media, you need to set a good example. Children are keen observers, and if they see you engaging in hypocritical behavior, it may have a negative impact on their own habits.

Recognize Behavioral Changes and Offer Support

Parents should pay attention to any changes in their teens’ behavior. Fluctuating moods, altered eating habits, changes in sleep patterns, or isolating themselves in their room can be signs of distress caused by social media. If it becomes evident that social media is negatively affecting your child’s physical and mental well-being, it may be helpful to recommend taking a break. Some kids can break the cycle on their own, but sometimes it takes parental intervention to help them overcome the negative influences.

Regular Check-ins

Talking to your children and teens about social media shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. Regular check-ins are crucial for understanding their media use and being attentive to any issues they may be facing. “Active, attentive parenting is crucial,” emphasized Mari Radzik, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. It might be exhausting, but as parents, it is our responsibility to be mindful of what our kids are doing and how we can help them feel confident, self-aware, and resilient.

In a world where social media plays such a significant role in young people’s lives, it’s essential for parents to navigate this landscape with their children. By implementing these tips and fostering open communication, parents can guide their kids towards a healthier relationship with social media that supports their mental well-being.

Source: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, news release, July 26, 2023