The Challenges of Growing Up With Social Media
Today's kids have unprecedented access to one another across the internet. Some of their best relationships have been formed, not with people, but with screens: their computers, their tablets, and their phones. Many kids have trouble understanding the difference between face-to-face time with their peers and these online relationships that have come to take up so much of their time and energy. Savvy parents, however, can balance the fascination many kids have with online lives with the key relationship skills that kids need when they step away from the internet and enter the real world, allowing them to grow up social without losing out on vital interactions with friends and family.
Creating Online Boundaries
Many parents don't know how to create healthy boundaries for their kids online. They want them to put their devices down occasionally, but they struggle with knowing where to set those boundaries. While your family's boundaries will be unique, there are some basic rules that will help shape those guidelines.
- Put away devices during family meal times and other family events. Updating social media accounts and texting friends can wait until later!
- Designate a specific time each evening when all devices should be turned off and put away. Ideally, this should be thirty minutes to an hour before bedtime.
- Monitor kids' social media accounts. The parent should have all passwords and should "friend" or "follow" their child on as many platforms as possible. In many cases, this will help kids think twice about making inappropriate posts.
- Consider designating a specific amount of time that your children can spend with their devices daily. This will help prevent mindless use of the devices and encourage kids to choose their online activities carefully.
Healthy Offline Activities
Sometimes, parents just need a break. There are chores to be done, work to be accomplished, and the occasional moment of leisure time that calls parents away from their kids--and screen time offers a convenient opportunity to accomplish whatever they need without leaving children to their own devices or having them underfoot. While there's nothing wrong with occasional screen time, there's no need to use online time as a babysitter! Instead, try some of these great activities to get kids off of their devices and engaged in other activities that don't require full parental attention.
- Engage kids with a great book series. Take them to bookstores or to the library and experiment with a variety of genres until they find one to capture their attention.
- Choose toys that encourage imaginative play. Magnetic building toys, blocks, and Legos are all good for hours of creative play without the need for parental input.
- Offer plenty of creative craft opportunities, from creating beaded jewelry to decorating their own backpacks, clothing, and more. There are plenty of creative craft ideas that don't require parental supervision!
- Encourage kids to participate in chores and other necessary activities around the house. They live there, too; help the learn to contribute to the household!
- Build a fort and let the kids "hide out" inside it. It doesn't have to be complicated to give kids a sense of independence and fun!
If you really want your child to put their device down and learn how to engage in key relationship skills, the best way is to provide your child with opportunities to engage in positive relationship-building activities in the real world. There are several ways to accomplish this.
- Encourage your child to go out for a sport or join a group at school. During these times, they won't be able to use their devices and they will be participating in important activities.
- Make regular family time a priority, whether you prefer family meals around the table each evening or weekend activities that you all participate in together.
- Go out of your way to make opportunities for social interaction. Let your child have friends over or visit friends' homes. Create activities that they can do with their friends. Be the one to set up group trips to the movies, out to get ice cream, or to hang out at the mall.
- Pick up a school calendar and encourage your child to attend a variety of events.
Encouraging your child to develop critical relationship skills in a society that prefers online interaction can be a challenge. By setting concrete limits on screen time, offering opportunities for real-world relationships, and providing opportunities to engage your child with creative endeavors that don't involve their screens, you'll give your child a better chance at developing those critical skills. The social media age doesn't have to mean a lack of social skills--and as the parent, you are your child's best line of support in developing those critical skills.