Here's How To Curb Your Child's Unhealthy Social Media Habits

Parenting without screens can be loud, but parenting with too much screen time can be detrimental to your child's development. By setting healthy boundaries in this area of their lives, they'll be better able to set those boundaries as they grow. However, it can be easier said than done to have them let go of the tablet.

Social media can often create a distorted sense of reality, even for adults. Particularly among children, this effect can cause damage in the long run. Dr. Jessica Fortuno, Psy.D tells PureWow, "Two of the key challenges for adolescents are identity development and developing that capacity for critical thinking, developing empathy and cultivating intimate relationships, really finding who they are," she says. "If they're immersed in this public forum that's based on perfectionistic, ideological portraits of ourselves, with all the bells and whistles and filters and getting it just so, and we become reliant on looking outside of ourselves for information and confirmation about who we are, that's a painful and losing battle."

In order to keep your child's feet on the ground, you can show them how to ask questions and see through the filters and perfection. Having your children search for context and understand that real life is far from curated will help them set healthy boundaries with their sense of self and how other people impact it.

Start early and set time limits

A few basic rules should apply to your kids' social media usage, including regulating how long they're on various platforms. Since children are still learning self-discipline, allotting certain amounts of time can be beneficial in more ways than one. Parents recommends involving your children in the conversation and discussing how long they would deem adequate for their daily screen time allowance. You can even work with them on their time limit control panel on their apps and devices, the outlet adds.

However, rather than just barking orders and taking their devices away, tell them why it's important. Explain to them that social media isn't reality and that living in the moment is a happier place to be. Show them how to be present and healthily detach from the world inside of the screen. Plus, many children learn about the online world from peers, siblings, and friends. When you show them how to interact online, you can set the tone for healthy habits, Parents explains.

Having this process and expectation set up early in your child's life can lead to fewer headaches and better habits later. Keeping lines of communication open can make a massive difference in your child's ability to discern how long is too long on their phones and allows them to trust you in the long run.

Privacy matters

Beyond time spent using the various apps, it's important to monitor your child's privacy settings to ensure that their data and information stays secure. According to Parents, Dan Zigmond, director of analytics at Instagram, requires his children's accounts to be on private and for them to personally know each of their followers. Take it from the inside source, having your child's account on private can be an important piece of the puzzle. With healthy boundaries around who can interact with their posts, it can help mitigate the issue of external validation. It may also help to reduce the "looking for approval from strangers" effect that social media can have on many unwitting children. Talk to your child about the privacy filters they're currently using and explain why it's important to keep their online presence private. 

By teaching them this skill, you not only help your child learn how to set and respect their own boundaries, but also to do the same for others. A valuable skill in the long run, valuing privacy can make a big difference throughout your child's life. 

Be there for them in cases of cyber-bullying

When it comes to keeping your child's social media usage private, it may help with another consequence that many are dealing with — cyberbullying. While it's certainly not fool-proof, limiting their exposure to various conversations may help keep them out of harm's way. However, if your child is the target of these online attacks, it can be devastating for the whole family. Have a strategy in place for instances like these. VeryWell Family advises a no-response policy and tells parents to keep copies of the messages, then report to authorities or school counselors as needed. Make sure to block the aggressor, but let your child keep their device, because this can often make matters worse and further isolate them. In fact, studies show that most kids who are cyber-bullied don't report the instances because they don't want to lose their phones, the outlet notes. 

Rather than taking their phone or laptop away, help them learn how to set boundaries in this way and to remove themselves from volatile situations. Be there for them as they navigate these emotions as a helpful ally and source of support. 

Social media doesn't have to be a detrimental factor in your children's development. When used and monitored correctly, it can actually help them learn important lessons and socialize with ease.