Healthy Social Media Habits for Teens in the Time of COVID-19

March 22, 2020

Healthy Social Media Habits for Teens in the Time of COVID-19

During this COVID-19 pandemic, children isolated at home are using the internet more than ever to continue their classwork and to entertain themselves. For many parents, this elevates the fears of the dangers and influence that social media and the internet may have on their children. How does one restrict access to a device that has become so integral to our day to day life? How can a parent prevent their children from accessing sites they deem inappropriate for their age? How can we prevent our teens from engaging in or being targeted by online bullying? How does access to social sites like Instagram and Tik Tok affect self esteem?

We sat down with Jaime Stepansky MSW to learn how parents can teach healthy social media habits to their teens.

“The most important goal is to teach our teens how to monitor themselves,” says Stepansky. In a world where most homework requires an internet connection, it is almost impossible to shield teens from online habits. “Remember that you are a role model to your children. If you forbid phones at the dinner table, make sure you also abstain from your phone at dinner.” Stepansky encourages parents to reflect on how much time they spend looking at screens. If your child looks at their phone for as long as you do, how do you feel about that?

In that case, shouldn’t parents ban screen time for certain periods of the day? Surprisingly, perhaps not. “You have to be careful about how you restrict devices that are so integral to our lives. Instead of taking away access to your teen’s phone, consider adding offline activities instead.” Stepansky suggests enrolling children into sports teams, clubs, and other social opportunities. “Online connections can be very meaningful. That’s great. But we should make sure our children have access to offline connections as well.”

“Finally, it’s important to have discussions with your teens about what they might see or experience on the internet and social media; just as you would have a conversation about drugs, sex, and alcohol. We cannot always prevent our children from exploring the internet and it’s important that we start a dialogue with them about what to expect, and the difference between what is real and what is fake.”

All in all, social media and the internet have positive and negative effects on both teens and adults. It is our job as parents to help our children learn how to navigate both sides in a healthy, balanced way.