As a member of Gen Z, I grew up with technology and social media, from the beginning of YouTube to the viralness of TikTok. For me, social media is a platform that makes it easy to engage with friends, share photos and fun content at any time and any place. It is also a place where I access content from other people that I resonate with, such as celebrities or recipes for college students.
Social media is also a way for me to stay current and relevant amongst my peers, especially in middle school and high school. I often felt left out if I wasn't aware of the latest popular content or highly engaged in group chats. Consequently, I found myself constantly glued to my phone, actively using social media whenever possible.
I believe it is difficult for anyone to figure out right away how to use technology and/or social media in a healthy way. As someone with attentive parents, I can say that it can be even more difficult to let my parents come in and help me. I felt that they could not understand the problems I was having, and how it was not easy to just give up social media because for me, it meant being disconnected from my friends and feeling left out.
Given the rapid innovation and widespread adoption of technology, it's clear that social media is here to stay. Banning its usage may not be the most effective approach. Instead, I encourage caregivers to help children and youth develop a healthy relationship with social media. Like anything else, there are both benefits and drawbacks. Here are some tips that I found helpful with my own parents:
- Open Communication: Encourage your children to share their online experiences, ask questions, and express concerns. It is important to be open and non-judgmental.
- Set Clear Boundaries: Establish explicit rules and boundaries for social media usage. This may include setting time limits, designating technology-free zones (like bedrooms or mealtimes), and providing age-appropriate guidelines for accessing different platforms.
- Foster Offline Activities: Encourage a balance between online and offline activities. Promote hobbies, sports, reading, and face-to-face interactions.
- Support Positive Connections: Encourage your children to connect with friends, family, and communities that share their interests and values. Emphasize the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships both online and offline.
- Being Mindful: Teach about responsible digital citizenship, emphasizing respect, empathy, and kindness online. Encourage your child to think before they go online. What are they going to do online? Why are they doing it? This thought process can help your child reflect on how they use and value social media and identify the best reasons and ways to use it.
Also, you can seek professional help if you notice signs of excessive social media use or negative effects on your child’s well-being. Our staff are professionally trained to address these concerns.
Everyone’s experience with social media and technology will be different. Therefore, it's important to understand the diverse benefits and drawbacks of social media usage, so you can effectively support your child in navigating their needs