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‘Is my child always online… or does it just feel like it’

It can be tricky to understand your child’s relationship with social media but it undoubtedly plays a big role in teen culture today. Surveys show that 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. It might seem that the social media platform consumes all their time and energy to the point that they always seem to be online or distracted from ‘real’ life.

We often highlight the risks but it’s important to also acknowledge that there are benefits that social media can have on young people. Being socially connected is very important for the psychological development of young people. By connecting with others on social media, your child could:

  • Develop better social skills
  • Feel less isolated
  • Bond with friends
  • Be creative and share their ideas with friends
  • Be better equipped to be active world citizens
  • Develop real world skills to help them become more independent

However as with any form of social engagement, social media does come with many risks as well. Some of the most common risks include:

  • Spending too much time online and disconnecting from the real world
  • Being involved in cyberbullying (either as a victim, bully or bystander)
  • Establishing a negative digital footprint
  • Personal information may be shared
  • Exposure to untoward activity or harassment.

It is important that parents play an active role in monitoring their child social media use and work together to establish positive use habits.

  • Lead by example – Engaging yourself positively with social media is a great way to show your child what is and isn’t okay to do online.
  • Be ‘friends’ with your teenager online- ‘Friending’ your child on their social media platform and engaging positively with them creates a shared experience. It is not about judging and using their platform against them, that will only lead to you being ‘unfriended’
  • Talk about their positive and negative experiences of social media – Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, explore and discuss what they enjoy about social media
  • Help them clean up their feed – Remove access to accounts that cause them distress or that can distract them. Find accounts that help create positive feelings.
  • Utilise Digital Wellbeing tools- Set up accounts on apps like Apple ‘Screen Share’, Android ‘Digital Wellbeing’ and ‘Forest’ for smartphones and wed browsers.

Inshallah we can aid our children to be positive digital citizens and ensure that they use social media in a way that benefits them and not hinders them.