Guidelines for Safe Social Media Use

By Sundus Abrar

Sept/Oct 2023
  • To limit social media, children need to be provided with other opportunities for connection with peers. Kids that play sports and are busy outside of school hours are often better adjusted. 
  • Minimizing screen time and social media use in tweens and teens is more effective with parent engagement. Encourage children to utilize social media and online content as tools to seek activities they can enjoy. If your child wants to bake, they can look for a recipe online and print it out. 
  • Try to interact with families who share your approach of minimizing social media. Meet up regularly. This way the kids don’t feel like they are the only ones without unlimited access to devices.
  • Instead of giving kids smartphones, use phones that have limited features of calling and texting. Introduce social media slowly through a multi-tiered approach. The first tier is the child sharing a parent’s device and interacting with peers through a parent’s account. Of course, parents need to educate themselves on these apps too. Some apps have features like disappearing messages, and kids can get sneaky really fast.
  • Social media has a long lasting footprint. It’s everywhere and you can’t avoid it. Become smart about how to use it. Remind your kids to not engage with people they don’t know.
  • Parents should avoid aimlessly using smartphones and be present and engaged with those around them. If  you need to send an urgent email during a board game or movie night, say it out loud so the kids know why you are on the phone during that time. Implement weekly family meetings and be intentional about communicating without distractions. 
  • It is imperative for children to know how to respond to unwelcome/inappropriate interactions online. Regular communication within the family ensures children feel safe and trusted to share difficult things. 
  • Remind your children that what they see posted online is a very small — and filtered- part of the other person’s life.
  • Parents should try to agree with each other over their children’s access to smartphones and social media. Move away from just thinking about the kids. Try to establish shared family goals, so it’s not us vs. them.

Excerpted quotes from the experts interviewed in the main story. 

Sundus Abrar is a parent of two, residing in Chicago. 

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