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In today’s digital age, where screens and social media have become integral to our lives, parents face the ever-evolving challenge of guiding teenagers through the complexities of screen time and online interactions. This toolkit is designed to empower parents with practical strategies and expert advice, equipping you to support your teens in creating online experiences that are healthy, rather than harmful. Keep scrolling to discover effective ways to foster a harmonious relationship between your teens and their screens, promoting their wellbeing, safety, and responsible technology use.
Media is always evolving, which can make it challenging to keep up with the latest recommendations for kids’ tech use. Scroll through the following tips from Child Mind Institute for some guidance on keeping teens safe and healthy online.
Set sensible boundaries on how much screen time is appropriate for your teen. You can also designate media-free spaces, like bedrooms and the dinner table. Establishing (and enforcing) these limits teaches kids to be healthy media consumers.
It’s important to model healthy behaviors and boundaries when it comes to screen time and social media use. Avoid using your phone at the table, and make sure your teens don’t need to compete with a screen for your attention. Besides setting a good example, this shows them that you care and are interested, which makes them more likely to open up to you.
Whatever age your family decides is appropriate for social media, make sure that your teenager is very careful about privacy. Research privacy settings with them and make sure they understand when something is public or private — or somewhere in the middle — and how that should affect what they post.
Technology is enormously appealing to kids and teens as it is, but when we make screen time the go-to thing kids get for good behavior — or get taken away for bad behavior — we are making it even more desirable, thereby increasing the chances that a child will overvalue it.
If your teen is on social media, you can follow or friend them, and monitor their page. But avoid going through their messages unless there is cause for concern. Parents should begin by trusting their children, and privacy should be taken seriously.
It’s important to establish an open dialogue with teenagers when it comes to their social media use and online experiences. The below questions from On Our Sleeves can be used by parents to start a discussion with kids and teens.
We spoke to mental health experts and pediatricians to answer your most pressing questions about teen screen time, social media supervision, healthy online experiences, and more.
While some online experiences may lead to peer comparison, “doomscrolling,” or other harmful mental health outcomes, there are also ways to intentionally use social media to find supportive communities. Scroll through the ideas below, and learn more from Active Minds.
Actively taking part in positive online communities allows teens to educate themselves on different worldviews and educational topics.
Sharing campaigns and content from nonprofits or other mission-driven organizations can allow teens to be more involved in social justice and mental health initiatives.
Reaching out to friends online can foster feelings of solidarity and togetherness, especially if they are having a rough day.
Social media allows people across communities to organize and find local events on a variety of topics, hobbies, etc.
What else can be done to protect our youth online?
The Mental Health Coalition is embarking on a multi-year journey to transform youth mental health in the digital space via the Safe Online Standards for Kids’ Mental Health (S.O.S.) initiative by developing credible, data-driven standards for kids’ mental health on technology platforms.
Check out the Mental Health Coalition’s Resource Library for information on a variety of mental health topics.
For more on youth and teen mental health, check out our partners below:
The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders by giving them the help they need to thrive.
The On Our Sleeves Movement For Children’s Mental Health is on a mission to give free expert-created resources to all U.S. communities so everyone can understand and promote mental health for children.
Through education, research, advocacy, and a focus on young adults ages 14–25, Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for, and valued in the United States.
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