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Oregon Family Magazine

Straight Talk About Social Media

03/01/2022 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Adolescence has always been a challenging time of development; however, social media has made growing up even more complicated for a lot of kids.

Recent surveys show about 90% of teens regularly use social media. In a poll conducted by Common Sense Media, 78% of teens say they check their digital devices hourly. Younger children are also increasingly exposed to social media with an estimated 39% of kids getting their first online account between the ages of 10-12 and 11% before they turn 10 years old.

While there are some benefits to engaging with social media platforms, including the ability to stay connected with friends, it also comes with risks, such as intentionally or accidentally oversharing personal information or photos and exposure to harmful or inappropriate content, potential predators and cyberbullying. Constant engagement with electronic devices can also rob kids of sleep, play and spending time with family, and has a direct connection to increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.

Log into the conversation

It’s critical for parents to have open and honest conversations with their kids about the realities of life online. If you are not well-versed in social media, take the time to learn. Read about or watch YouTube videos on how these sites work and why kids are using them. In addition:

·       Follow your kids’ social media accounts with an agreement about whether you will or won’t engage with their posts.

·       Keep computers in public areas of the home.

·       Set parental controls on internet access to age-appropriate sites.

·       Help your kids turn off location sharing on their apps.

·       Make it a rule that kids dock their phones in your bedroom at night.

·       Instruct them not to share important information including full names, addresses, telephone numbers or dates when your family is leaving town.

Remind your kids that anything they post does not go away. Many employers, as well as colleges and universities, take a hard look at the social media history of prospective applicants.

Pay attention: Notice when your child’s behavior is changing in relation to what they are seeing or doing on their devices, including signs of sadness, anxiety or irritability, and bring it to their attention and talk about it.

If your child is suffering physically or emotionally from their use of social media and you need help addressing it, be sure to talk with your pediatrician.