When parents ask me how to help prevent their kids from becoming addicted to social media, this phrase always comes to mind. If we want our kids to stop comparing themselves to filtered and unrealistic images of people online, if we are concerned that they are seeking validation from their number of followers and likes, and if we worry that social media and its expectations are making them feel anxious and controlled, then we need to teach them to hold social media lightly. But how can we do this? Here are my 5 top tips.
Find their spark
Get your kid interested in something, anything that does not involve them looking at a screen too much. It doesn't really matter what it is-it could be football, ballet, pottery or a really passionate interest in climate change. Support their interest and cultivate it. Give them as many opportunities as possible to get stuck into it. It will give them validation outside of social media, and help them to feel that sense of belonging that they may be looking for in the online world.
Teach your teen to practice gratitudes. Get them to write down at least 3 things that they are grateful for, and get them to do this every day. It may sound a bit ‘woo’ but research has shown that people who do this regularly are happier and more confident. It will help them to see how rich their life is in so many ways, and that they have so much to look forward to. It will help them to gain perspective, and of course it will enable them to develop a positive attitude to life. This will transfer to how they approach their time on social media. They will be less likely to compare themselves, get FOMO. In short, they will ‘hold it lightly’.
No sleeping with your phone!
Make this rule in your house; no-one sleeps with their phone. It has such a damaging affect on sleep quality, and makes people feel they are contactable 24 hours a day. I also believe that having your phone so close to you while you sleep is making a massive statement about how significant it is in your life. Hold it lightly, and leave it downstairs. Go old-school and buy an alarm clock.
Teach them to be media savvy
Spend time teaching your kids how to read images. How is a photo trying to make you feel? Why does it want to make you feel that way? Could this image be manipulating you in any way? What is its message? How does that message sit with your values and beliefs? Is everyone being represented in this image or on this feed? Or is everyone white and able-bodied? How do you respond to that? It is so important that our kids know when they are trying to be sold something, and essential that they can see when some people in our society are not being represented and know that that is unacceptable.
Practice what you preach
If you want your teen to be in control of their social media activity, if you want them to be served by it rather than enslaved to it, then check in on your own relationship with the online world. How do you talk about it? How often do you have your phone in you hand? Do you talk about people on social media? What sort of words do you use to describe them? How do you describe yourself? Model the behaviour you want to see your child displaying.
Finally, make sure they see you having plenty of face-to-face interaction with people. Put the phone down when you are speaking to your partner, friends, the cashier in the supermarket. Let them see that you value what people have to say, and that nothing beats communicating with people in real life.
I hope you find this useful! Please add in the comments any more tips and ideas!