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Sheltering At Home During the Pandemic Has Dramatically Increased Social Media Usage Among Teens and Tweens.  With the New School Year Arriving, Consider Stress-Free Ways to Readjust Your Family’s Habits To Get Back To Healthier Social Media Time.

With children returning to school, parents and educators should start thinking about healthier social media times. We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused social media usage among teens and tweens to increase, probably dramatically.  One study by Lurie Children’s Hospital claims that 63% of parents report that their teens are on social media more now than before the pandemic.  Along with that increased use comes a higher risk of social media-related dangers like depression and self-harm, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, and others.

The pandemic has forced families to adjust and improvise balancing demands and burdens like at-home schooling, work, and isolation.  Please do not feel guilt or anxiety over the increased screen time; rather, now that lives are returning to some semblance of normal and most children are returning to school in person, consider this is an opportunity to recalibrate some of the unhealthy social media habits that might have developed over the past year-and-a-half, particularly excessive social media use.

At an absolute maximum, we would recommend no more than 2 hours a day of social media use for children (though, to be clear, we still need more research to clarify what the maximum healthy limits are).  Remember that this is only a guideline for maximum use, not an ideal daily use guideline and that the safety of any given social media app will depend upon each child’s age and development, so parents always need to exercise discretion when allowing children onto social media.  

Healthier Social Media Time Tips:

1. Talk to your children about excessive time on social media.

Frequent social media use replaces beneficial activities like exercise, reading, and socializing directly.  Perhaps that is why excessive time on social media has been linked to mental health issues like depression, self-harm, learning deficits, and eating disorders.  Talk to your children about the risks of using social media too much.  Learn what to say with our free Buckling the Social Media Seatbelt SuperCouse!

2. Try our Family Phone Time Challenge 

Use our Family Phone Time Challenge as an effective, conflict-free way to readjust social media habits.  Best of all, it only takes about 2 minutes a day.  (Click the link to learn more.)

3. Use your Widgets.

Use available technology to help your child self-regulate their social media time.  (Click the link to learn how.)

4. Keep devices outside the bedroom at nighttime.

At night boredom sets in for teens and tweens.  That is why the hour before bedtime is prime time for developing habitual social media use.  Even worse, using social media in the evenings has been linked to sleep disturbance and learning deficits.  Keep devices outside of the bedroom starting at least an hour before bedtime.

5. Get a kitchen device basket.

Sitting silently while swiping through our social media accounts has replaced healthy, fun conversation during meal times.  Encourage your family to put the devices aside during meal times by placing a “device basket” in your kitchen or dining room.  As your family sits down at the dinner table, everyone must put their devices in the basket.  (Hint: If following through on this tip proves challenging, that means you need to keep doing it!)

6. Set your parental control settings.

Apple, many Android devices, and third-party apps offer the ability to limit your children’s time on social media.  Consider using these powerful features, as they allow parents to set healthy limits for social media while freeing us of the need to lurk over our children’s shoulders, monitor their time, and fight over shutting off the devices.  Enabling time controls will cause social media to automatically turn off when your child has reached a healthy time limit teaching your child to self-regulate their own social media time.  Learn how to do it with our free Buckling the Social Media Seatbelt SuperCouse!

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