Social Media Tips for Parents

Social Media Tips for Parents

Most of us think we “get” social media, but when it comes to our children, how much do we really know about YouTube Kids, Snapchat and TikTok?

“Social media literacy is so important,” said Betsy Beckman, MD, pediatrician with Holland Hospital Pediatrics & Internal Medicine. “It can be challenging for parents because most didn’t grow up navigating social media the way children do today.”

To help your kids use social media safely and appropriately, Dr. Beckman offers answers to important questions:

My child only uses “kid-friendly” social media apps. Are those okay?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preteens do not have their own social media accounts. If you decide to log your child into an app designed for kids ages 12 and under, be sure to:

  • Learn about and use the parental control features.
  • Monitor what your child is doing, even with the controls activated.
  • Consider not only the content, but also the advertisements when choosing an app.

So when are teens ready for regular social media?

First, read up on an app’s features and privacy settings, and discuss them with your teen. Setting limits, reinforcing rules and staying involved in their social media use protects their well-being.

Many popular social media apps may be inappropriate for some teens. For example, Common Sense Media rates Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram as being for ages 15 to 16 and older. Regardless of age, your teen needs to be mature enough to use social media responsibly. That means:

  • Following your rules about phone use (e.g., turning it off at bedtime)
  • Having good time management skills (e.g., getting their homework and chores done)
  • Showing good judgement (e.g., understanding how to tell a friend from a predator)
  • Recognizing that what you see online isn’t always reality (e.g., realizing that people with “perfect hair, makeup and clothes” are using filters and editing)

What are the warning signs of online bullying?

About 16% of high school students are cyberbullied each year, and many are targeted on social media. “Parents should keep in mind that what goes online stays online,” Dr. Beckman added. “Posting cute pictures or sharing stories about your child can seem harmless, but these posts can turn into sources of embarrassment or fodder for future bullies.”

Signs of cyberbullying may include:

  • A sharp increase or decrease in time spent on social media
  • Hiding their phone or device screen when you’re around
  • Shutting down an active social media account
  • Becoming withdrawn or losing interest in offline activities

Learn more about coping with social media bullies here.

Is there anything else to consider?

Sleep is critical to learning and growth, so your teen should not be compromising their zzz’s because of social media. Screens should be avoided one to two hours before bedtime.

In your neighborhood and close to home, Holland Hospital’s pediatric, family and internal medicine specialists are focused on your health and wellness—delivering experienced and compassionate care for the entire family. Call (616) 394-3200 or learn more about our primary care providers.


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