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An Expert Weighs In: 3 Rules for Kids and Social Media

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I scrolled through Facebook one Sunday morning and saw a friend’s post. “Epic girls’ night!” I didn’t remember being invited to a girls’ night. I wondered why I’d been left out, and then I thought, “It’s OK. They’re still your friends.” But if I had been 14 and saw my best friends all together without me, I would’ve spiraled. Yet that’s the reality today for kids and social media.

Have you seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix? One bit of data the documentary shared is that starting around 2011, the number of girls who self-harmed climbed 189 percent for 10- to 14-year-olds. The pattern points to social media and specifically when it became available on mobile devices. So what do we do? According to the research, there are 3 rules we need to put in place.

Expert Rule #1: If they aren’t already on social media, delay it until high school.

Middle school is already hard enough. Really, being 13 is just so awkward. Bodies are changing, there are funny smells, and fitting in is tough. While you might think your children are mature enough to have a phone, it doesn’t mean they should be given permission to use any app they can download. Are you a horrible parent for saying no to social media? Well, Alex Roetter, a former senior VP at Twitter said, “My kids don’t use social media.” He was asked, “Is that a rule?” His response: “That’s a rule.”

iMOM Tip: Start a “No-So” (no social) bank account. Every month your child resists social media, put in $10. Is this a bribe? Yep. Does your child have a choice? Nope. But incentivizing it will turn what feels like a punishment into an opportunity.

Expert Rule #2: All devices should be out of the bedroom by a designated time.

This one goes for mom and dad too. Stopping phone usage an hour before bed could be the best thing for your marriage and family. You can talk, watch a show together, read, play basketball in the driveway. Plus, kids and social media don’t mix first thing in the morning. We want them to start their day with confidence, not comparison.

iMOM Tip: Pick a time and put the phones in jail. Lock ’em up. I can hear you saying, “But if there’s an emergency…!” So pick one of the adults’ phones, turn the ringer on, and put it on the opposite side of the bedroom. You will have more success enforcing this with your child if you do it yourself. Bail your phones out of jail once everyone is up, dressed, and fed.

Expert Rule #3: Work out a time budget.screen time tracker kids and social media

I know. You’ve been hearing this since your kids were a year old, but this is different from just screen time. We’re not talking about “Baby Einstein” or an extra episode of “The Wiggles.” The time kids spend on social media is shaping their self-worth, so it’s time worth policing.

iMOM Tip: Ask your son or daughter, “How much social media time do you think is a good amount?” Hopefully, your children will say something reasonable and it might reveal to them just how much time they were spending mindlessly scrolling. iMOM’s Screen Time Tracker is a helpful tool. And while you’re at it, turn off notifications. They are just tapping on our shoulders, whispering, “Hey! Check your phone.” Notifications make breaking a phone addiction that much harder.

What rules for kids and social media would you add to the list?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

Why do you think social media is so popular?

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