I receive many questions about social media use and kids. Parents really need help here. So, I have compiled some quick tips for your consideration. If you have any other good tips, please do not hesitate to share them with me!
Tip 1) Only post something you genuinely want to share. Do not post to compete with someone else or to fish for "likes."
Tip 2) Only post something you would want your grandmother to see. When you post online, it is not private. Anyone can see what you post. So, think very carefully about what you post before you do it. Give yourself some time (like a 5 minute rule) before you post something to make sure you want to. And, if you are hesitant in any way, don't post! (Hint for parents: ensure that you are following your kids on all their social media formats).
Tip 3) It is important to remember that to have good friends, you must first be a good friend. So, only "like" or "share" something that is positive--like the old adage: only pass along a compliment, never an insult. (Hint for parents: it is important to be role models here.)
Tip 4) It is important for parents to realize that kids are going to make mistakes here. It is inevitable. When this happens, use the opportunity to teach, guide and grow--never to shame.
Tip 5) It is important to stress to our kids that how many followers, and how many "likes" or "shares" is not important. Social media is at its best when it creates an opportunity for genuine sharing. Think of a party--you can go to a party with 50 people and you probably won't have a good conversation with many people. However, if you go to a party with 10 people, you probably will have the chance to truly connect with most of them. True, authentic connection and sharing is what matters most. This applies to social media as well.
Tip 6) I think we need to lead by example, when it comes to turning off our devices. Parents need to first develop their own good habits and then they can help their children find balance too. In order to help things along, I suggest that families make "device time outs" for things like family meals and special events. I also think it is helpful to ask kids to leave their devices in the kitchen when they go to bed, as I have seen children with dysregulated sleep when they keep their devices in their rooms at night. (PS--I think it is really important that families sit down and eat together totally unplugged at least once a day.)
Tip 7) There is a great deal of controversy around when children should first be allowed to go on a device. The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages screen time in children younger than 18 months of age. Some recent research shows that early "device usage" can delay children's language development. However, I have also seen families use devices very creatively--for example, to help children cope during long car rides. I personally use devices for children who are waiting to see me in my wait room--as I know how hard waiting can be for them. So, my advice here is moderation. I believe some device use is okay if the content is of high quality and educational, and if the use of the device is helping the child in some way. But, put on a timer, do not let the young child play for more than 10 minutes. Then, put the device away and talk and sing and play with your child!