By: Kathryn Jackson
Even for parents, social media can be addictive. I am not immune to checking out and scrolling on my phone for minutes that turn into hours. Unfortunately, we know that if setting healthy boundaries around social media is tricky for adults, it will be the same for our children. Here are three habits we’ve put into place in our home to help both our children – and ourselves – maintain a healthy relationship with social media.
Set a Good Example
While my children are in my home, I believe I am responsible for their use of social media and technology. When the family is spending time together and my kids see me scrolling on my phone, it only reinforces the idea that social media is of higher importance than those around me. When my children speak, I listen. When I take a photo of a family experience, I post it to my account later. When I see an interesting article, I save it to read until I’m alone. I want to look back knowing that I never missed a “life moment” with my kids due to social media.
Create Clear Expectations
My children are not allowed to have smart phones until they turn 16 (before that time, we have given our younger children flip phones in case there is an emergency). This might sound over-the-top, but when they receive the smart phone, they are required to sign a contract that lists all of our expectations and the consequences for violating them. Here are a few of those expectations:
- Mom and dad can view any social media accounts and messages, at any time.
- Do not ever use cruel, hurtful, or shaming language on anyone’s account – friend or stranger. If you do, your phone will be taken indefinitely.
- Do not, under any circumstances, use your phone while driving. If you do, your phone will be taken indefinitely, and you must coordinate rides and pay for mileage.
Check out helpful parental control softwares here.
Maintain Open Communication
Be open with your kids about the dangers of social media. We consistently tell our children that if anything ever makes them uncomfortable on social media, they should tell us right away. I consistency ask my kids, “How did scrolling on social media make you feel today? Did you see anything that inspired you, or anything that made you feel insecure or uncomfortable?” While we know our children might not always feel comfortable telling us every detail, we hope that by starting these open and honest conversations at a young age, they will feel comfortable opening up about any content that is damaging.
We are not social media experts by any means, but we do believe in healthy boundaries, open communication, and prioritizing presence in our home. We hope these tips will help you engage in honest conversations and help your children develop a healthy relationship with social media as they grow up.